REVIEW: Shed Seven, Leeds First Direct Arena, December 7 ****

Rainbow chasers: Shed Seven on the road again for December

Shed Seven, Shedcember Tour 2019, Leeds First Direct Arena, December 7

SHED Seven, December 7, and they must be in heaven. Sixteen years after York’s only ever Top Ten band split – a case of Britpop crackle, then snap – they are at a maximum high, playing to their biggest ever indoor crowd down the A64 in Leeds, where Manchester’s Happy Mondays had to settle for the smaller Leeds O2 Academy. You’re twisting their lemon, man.

First re-forming in 2007, going for concert gold again, the Sheds have since made their Shedcember winter tours a regular fixture, this year playing their record run of 23 shows between November 21 and December 21, with Leeds Arena at the epicentre.

This has been the year when “Britpop’s meat and potatoes band” had their Going For Gold compilation dipped in molten gold for a 20th anniversary deluxe vinyl reissue, and frontman Rick Witter enjoyed a November natter and a tipple-tasting session on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. Overdue respect of sorts, first from their former major label, Polydor, who had jettisoned them while the hits were still flowing, High Hopes dashed, and then a long-running chat-and-chomp show.

However, the Shed renaissance is built on their raucous, beer-swilling, body-still-willing, terrace-chant live shows, peaking across the Pennines in Summer 2018 when 8,000 gathered at Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl one June night.

By now, their set lists have been bolstered by 2017’s “comeback” album, Instant Pleasures, their first since 2001’s Artful work, Truth Be Told (a record entirely absent from Saturday’s 19-song setlist).

These Shedcember shows are bigger, brighter in their lighting, filmed up close on the video screens, and bolstered in Leeds by boisterous support slots from Birmingham’s The Twang and Sheffield’s Reverend And The Makers.

Shout-out: Shed Seven had a message for Mrs Craig Lilley at Saturday’s gig

Striding on to The Magnificent Seven theme tune, it was T-shirts for Witter and guitarist Paul Banks, Breton-striped top for guitarist and keyboards player Joe Johnson, shirts for bassist Tom Gladwin and high-rise drummer Alan Leach. There is still nothing flash about the Sheds, save for the lightning bolt on Banks’s T and the glistening sheen of the regularly employed brass trio.

They started with the swaggering Room In My House, the instant pleasure from Instant Pleasures, later represented by Enemies & Friends (the night’s one lull), Better Days, an even better It’s Not Easy and knock-out first encore Invincible.

The Shedlist was dominated by fan favourites, from debut single Mark, through exhilarating versions of She Left Me On Friday, Dolphin and Bully Boy, before the one surprise as Going For Gold segued into its distant third cousin, U2’s Angel Of Harlem, on a suitably cold and wet December day, where by now no-one’s feet were touching the ground in the standing zone.

Parallel Lines, a cautionary tale as viewed today from the distance of fatherhood and “day jobs” in the Sheds’ latter forties, assumed its rightful place as the set’s extended closer. The night ended, as it always must, with the riotous Disco Down and all-our-yesterdays Chasing Rainbows, matching the multi-colour lighting chosen to cloak the Arena’s chameleon reptile skin.

Oh, and Mrs Craig Lilley, should you by a miracle be reading this, you were roundly booed after Witter revealed you had made your husband stay in, despite his ticket in his pocket. Rather than the room in your house, here’s where you should have been tonight, both of you.

Charles Hutchinson