After nearly a decade in the wilderness, Milburn return home to find a bigger, louder, madder fanbase than they left behind.
As a 2000 capacity crowd practically caves in the floor of Sheffield’s 02 Academy while collectively bellowing out every word to early B-side ‘17’, its only then that you truly appreciate the insanity of a band who ‘didn’t quite make it’ inspiring such devotion 8 years after their premature demise. When Milburn split in 2008 they seemed destined be a footnote from an era where bigger groups prevailed; a band fondly remembered by pockets of noughties indie fans but without the critical or commercial clout to see their music passed on to the next generation. Absence in music has a history of making fans hearts grow fonder however, and as the band approach the end of their 5th sell out show in just over a week (4 at this venue and one blistering warm up show at Newcastle’s Riverside), it seems they have pulled off the sort of unlikely, communal victory that would make even Claudio Ranieri’s giant killing Leicester team stop and applaud. Rather than recede, it seems clear that, certainly in their hometown at least, Milburn’s fanbase has grown significantly in their years apart.
From the moment the Guitarist Louis Carnall strums the first chord of opener ‘Well Well Well’, the audience, consisting primarily of mid-twenties nostalgists with an added sprinkle of teens who have likely had the band passed onto them by older brothers, gets whipped into the sort of frenzy that would shock anyone who was not a die-hard Milburn fan. The momentum swells as the Sheffield quartet follow up with their biggest hit ‘Send in the Boys’ and first album favourite ‘What About Next Time?’ leaving some wondering if they have shown their best cards too early.
They haven’t. The expected lull in atmosphere that often occurs when a band airs tracks from a less successful album does not arrive, and the impassioned chanting that greets the likes of ‘Count to Ten ‘and ‘The Genius and The Tramp’ from second and final album to date ‘These are the Facts’ makes you wonder how Milburn’s following in Sheffield alone wasn’t enough to propel the band into lasting success.
One of the most impressive things about Milburn is the unwavering consistency of every song, when you hear album tracks like the aforementioned ‘What About Next Time?’ and ‘Brewster’ alongside top 40 singles like ‘Cheshire Cat Smile’ it’s easy to forget which one was the hit as each comes loaded with the sort of singable riff and massive chorus that the Pigeon Detectives would give their 3rd chord for. While the band were never known for reinventing the wheel, the set tonight shows that they certainly can’t be accused of surviving on a couple of tunes either.
It is almost unavoidable to discuss any aspect of Milburn’s career without making reference to their more famous Sheffield counterparts (no, not Little Man Tate) but when watching the constant pogoing and beer drenched sing alongs of tonight’s gig, you can’t help but think that there’s still a potentially large audience hankering for the hallmark sound that Alex Turner and co left behind when they joined the school of Josh Homme and released ‘Humbug’ in 2009. On the basis of these homecoming shows, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to think that Milburn have managed to recruit a percentage of the more the laddish Arctic Monkeys devotees who were not sold on their hugely successful change in direction and still pine for tales of northern Britain sang over a simplistic, kinetic, garage-rock backdrop.
Whether Milburn’s reunion is simply a wildly successful lap of honour or a path to new music is something that’s unknown at this point, but the euphoric scenes that greet the shows climatic double header of ‘Roll Out The Barrell’ and ‘What You Could’ve Won’ will surely make it near impossible for the band to resist giving it another go. It goes without saying that the odds of a moderately successful Yorkshire band shaking up the music scene ten years after their supposed peak are longer than a John Squire guitar solo, but in a world where Leicester are champions, Trump may be president and Eamonn Holmes is allowed to present the news it would be hard to argue that stranger, less desirable things have happened. If nothing else, they have a wild army of fans that will be willing them all the way.
This Milburn article was by James Sweeney, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : lindsaymelbourne_