The The performing for The Skyline Series at The Digbeth Arena Birmingham on Friday 7th September 2018.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

It has been sixteen years since The The last toured, but it was a packed Digbeth Arena that turned out last night to welcome them back to Birmingham.

Having been amongst the most critically acclaimed and politically engaging bands of the 80s, for almost twenty years, Matt Johnson, the bands founder singer and songwriter, vanished from public view, refusing to write, record or perform. This decision to walk away was triggered by the sudden death in 1989 of his younger brother Eugene, at a time when The The were halfway through a world tour.

But it was the death of his older brother Andrew, in 2016 that prompted Johnson to revive the band and as the lights dimmed there was a giant white screen behind them as they came onto the stage to rapturous applause.

They started their set with a bluesy, slow Global Eyes before they followed up with Sweet Bird Of Truth which saw spectral faces appearing on the back screen. By the time they got to the fourth song, the politically relevant Heartland, the screen was ablaze with a collage of home movies of his father and promo clips of Johnson’s past.

With Johnson commanding the stage with the power, presence and the charisma of a preacher, they delivered a set list which featured heavily from the bands fourth album, Dusk, which included 1990’s masterpiece Love Is Stronger Than Death, a rambunctious Dogs Of Lust and Helpline Operator.

With Johnson’s father having passed away days before the comeback tour began, there was no sign of his emotional turmoil as he delivered his powerful, gravely vocals and timeless lyrics that continue to speak volumes to every generation.

Other standout songs were the brilliant Armageddon Days Are There (Again) together with its frenetic swagger, a brilliant cover of Hank Williams Jr’s I Saw The Light and a sweltering version of Infected.

For the encore Johnson delivered a semi acoustic version of True Happiness This Way Lies, followed by an exhilarating version of Uncertain Smile which saw the Arena ablaze with colour, and set closer Lonely Planet which was a softer stunning conclusion to an evening that served to highlight just how time has barely aged The The’s wonderful sound, as they delivered a memorable night, showing fans young and old that they are still a force to be reckoned with.