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Chew Chew Training

CUD, The Hacienda, Manchester, Summer 1990

Leaving behind the Big Smoke for the even bigger Smoke is at first, a fraught experience. Aren't Cud that slightly eccentric rock band that you either love or hate? Aren't they religious? God, don't let them be religious. This time next year they'll be nearly as big in business.

When Carl first appears wearing his cool dude shades I sense trouble - that is, I'm going to hate them. Still, at least he's not all in black. He's wearing red, actually, an upfront colour, which inspires everything that Carl isn't. People used to call him wacky, which is what happens when nice people feel obliged to entertain, but nowadays that's only hue of his dress sense. These days he's pretty relaxed, or prepared to be, as long as he can't catch the eye of the girls screaming on the balcony. And as long as we don't click into the exact memory he's re-living during those very personal lyrics.

The tour, which has virtually been a sell-out at every stop, ends tonight with a calculated assault of musical confidence. By the end of the first number, "Purple Love Balloon", kids are already lurching dangerously at the crash barrier, fumbling on to the stage only to be shuffled off again by a lady bouncer. "Now" ("is the time, pick up your cuban heels and follow me") hits the spot, even it you're not dressed for the occasion. The bass creeps under the feet, Carl's voice echoes with ingenuous excitement, and the guitar plan its first simple short solo.

It's lively but it's not dangerous. They want the songs to wipe you away, not the guitars. The music never threatens, only occasionally warns, or it cirdes the vocals, slinks off, or plays, weaving around them. No wonder Mike doesn't play keyboards live, he hasn't the time. During "Brain On A Slow Train" his guitar is itchy and impressionable, and the bass is questioning, almost like Happy Mondays. Bassist Wlliam shakes his head and stomps about. When he moves forwards, which he does quite often, it's as if he's trying to show us something. When the music drops to its knees ("Robinson Crusoe"), William does too.

As the gig goes on they all get happier, save for Mike. Carl's medallion swings and his arms and legs go all over the place at peculiar angles and at the whim of his swirling hips. "Hey look everybody I'm being myself and you'll never know who that is anyway," he says - proving that shy people can be pop stars, even when they're in a rock band.

A bongo player sneaks in for a few numbers, but Cud aren't urgent about "getting down". Equally, the music has its say but won't dwell on the point. in fact, they're not really obsessive about anything, just totally committed..

Punch is what they go for and a groove is what they get, and none better than "Possession". Carl's voice rises and just hangs there and suddenly, Spandau Ballet's "Under Pressure" comes to mind. Then it's all over, the guitar sounds like a harp and "Love In A Hallow Tree" drifts in. But as soon as Carl sings again, more memories of Spandau's earlier greats flood in. He may oil his voice with generous swigs (of probably water), from an unglamorous cyclist's drinking bottle. He certainly appreciates a completely different level of tack. But he still sounds exactly like Tony Hadley, as do his words, words and more words. Stories which quite clearly mean everything to him and anything to us.

All of tonight surprises, except perhaps, the fact they have a song called "Vocally Speaking'.

NGAIRE

Pic: Grant Peden