Tonight saw me making the short trip down the M6 to Digbeth in Birmingham to catch 2 of the Midlands finest bands at a sold out show at The Crossing.

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin were the headlining act, supported by the big beat supergroup Bentley Rhythm Ace, wit a pre-show DJ set from the one and only James Atkin from EMF. This was one show that will have me buzzing for a long time.

The DJ warm up set from James had your typical 90s bangers in it, with a lot of the crowd cheering his choices.

After a while he disappeared to get stage ready for his duties in the mighty Bentley Rhythm Ace. BRA were formed in 1995, originally consisting of Richard March (Pop Will Eat Itself) and Mike Stokes. They have a varying line up of a few members but the current live line up consists of Richard March on Bass, James Atkin on Samples/Acid Duties and Perhaps one of the greatest drummers to have come from the Midlands Fuzz Townshend (Of Pop Will Eat Itself and Car SOS fame).

It’s not often at all these days that you can catch BRA live, which makes their appearance all the more special. Donned in their trademark outfits (Richard had his rather snazzy sparkly jacket on as per) it was time for a mini Friday Night Rave. I have seen them a few times over the past few years and I have to say, even though each time has been an extreme laugh and thoroughly enjoyable, tonight’s set was nothing short of amazing. Seamlessly going through a pretty much non stop array of songs that saw loads of smiles on faces, dancing around and having a laugh it was clear that BRA have no trouble at all entertaining. plenty of whistle blowing, flag waving, A-GO-GO Bell hitting and, of course, the signature hand cranked air raid siren.

It was only a matter of time that their most famous song came through the speakers – Bentleys Gonna Sort You Out! It’s one of those songs that was everywhere back on the day, being on a few adverts, but even despite that it is a tune that will never get old, boring, or fail to get people dancing.

If you love having a laugh and seeing artists themselves really enjoying themselves onstage as much as the crowd I implore you to catch them live if you can, it will be a sad day when they decide to call it a day for good, hopefully that won’t happen anytime soon.

After a bit of a pause came the Main Act for tonight, Ned’s. One of the 3 Grebo acts to emerge from Stourbridge in the late 1980s who made it big worldwide, travelling all over with their own brand of Indie. Another act that don’t tour very often these days, but when they do play you can pretty much guarantee that they will pack out any venue, especially in the Midlands, with loyal fans from far and wide (with at least 1 fan coming all the way from Canada especially for this run of 3 Ned’s dates) to show their loyalty and share in the good vibes of the faithful fans. There were plenty of younger people there too, a new wave of fans keeping the music of Ned’s alive for, hopefully, a long time to come.

When the lights dropped the cheering was thunderous, I thought it was loud the other night for Corrosion Of Conformity but this was much louder. The 600 capacity venue was ram packed with people, shouting and getting excited for the appearance of the Stourbridge 5. One of the few bands around to feature 2 bassists, the sound is unmistakably theirs.

They kicked off with “Suave And Suffocated”, and instantly the crowd go nuts, a sea of heads jumping up and down, with singing so loud that it is easily heard over the band, and this continues throughout the night.

It wasn’t just the crowd jumping either, Jonn Penney was as energetic as ever, his signature stage moves coming a plenty, with his floppy locks flying all over the places.

“What Gives My Son” was up next, a furiously paced song which really gets the fans working hard, I was exhausted watching them, it seemed like tonight was going to turn into a sweat box, but some of the best gigs are usually the ones that do become a bit damp in my opinion, proof of a reactive, involved crowd having the time of their lives.

It was fair to say that the set was spot on, every song included (such as “Not Sleeping Around”, “Swallowing Air”, my personal favourite Ned’s tune “Intact”, “Happy”) were lapped up by everyone, pretty much every word sang back at the band which in turn put the widest of smiles on every band members face.

Jonn is certainly a frontman who adores the crowd, really giving it his all for them, really leaning in towards them, making everyone there feel like he’s in there with them. In fact all members of the band really gave it their all tonight, and in all the times I have seen them in recent years tonight’s performance was probably one of their strongest, tightest performances I have seen.

Something very unexpected happened part way through the set too, something that Jonn said was a first for a Ned’s gig. A lady was pulled up on stage, was given the mic and addressed her partner, Proposing to him from the stage where his favourite band were stood, to which, I’m pleased to say, he said yes!!! (Congratulations to them both). And as Jonn said himself afterwards “never underestimate the power of Ned’s”.

After a few more tracks they took a bow and walked off stage, the obligatory encore was due, the fans shouting for more as the techs retuned the guitar and basses. Of course they obliged and came back on for a 2 song return, playing the classic “Kill Your Television” and finishing the night with “Selfish”.

Ned’s are sounding better than ever, a huge sound from a bunch of well seasoned, humble, down to earth Midlands musicians who continue to show the world that are still reasons for people to unite and have a great time.

There is certainly a couple of things that can be said about a Ned’s and/or a BRA gig. You can feel the love in the crowd (the love for the band and the love for each other) and you will almost certainly always leave with a massive smile, aching muscles and a huge sense of euphoria.

Ned’s have 2 more dates on this mini tour: Saturday 6th May @ The Great Hall in Gillingham and Sunday 7th May @ Islington Assembly Hall in London. Tickets available here: bit.ly/NedsAtomicDustbin