Gig Review – The Icicle Works – O2 Academy Islington, London [21 October 2017].

Yes, it’s the Icicle Works in name but in reality, it’s the Ian McNabb show ably supported by his trusted backing band.  Playing roughly a 2½ hour show featuring the best bits from his Icicle Works days interspersed with some of his Solo work and show casing a few number from his latest LP ‘Star Smile Strong’. 

It’s been a while since I last saw them (11,414 days to be precise – Microsoft Excel is a wonderful tool!) at the Kentish Town & Country Club. Yes, that evening 31 years ago is etched firmly in my memory. I’m sure it was a great gig and I bought a very nice Hollow Horse t-shirt but alas I consumed far too much alcohol on the night to remember much.  So why is it etched in my memory I hear you ask – well alas on my way into work the next day the alcohol had taken its toll and within a whisker of Old St tube I suffered the ignominy of vomiting in the tube train.  When I got to work they took one look at me and said ‘go home you look dreadful’!. 

Now Ian’s always had a really good voice and his songs engage the listener with stories of love, drugs, life in general but generally with a dark twist. The big songs are just rousing affairs with singalong choruses that really deserve a stadium slot.  He appeared to have a frog in the proverbial throat tonight, but still put on a mightily impressive show.  Resplendent in his scruffiness – he’s like a younger Neil Young in more ways than one.  Firstly, dressed all in black in Ill-fitting tour t-shirt, trousers which he kept having to pull up and hat covering his straggly hair – he kind of resembled a street bum minus the obligatory dog!!  Secondly, a number of tonight’s songs had typical Neil Young endings (you never know when it’s going to finish) or get in a huddle with the band and play amongst yourselves. 

Appearance aside he’s got stage presence in abundance, is conscientious with his sound (forever retuning his guitar), has a sense of humour in between ditties, has a great voice and boy can he play the guitar!

Tonight, was long and loud and sweaty. A 2-set show with a 20-minute interval and 2 encores (see below for the actual songs played).  The enthusiastic audience had plenty of opportunity to sing along to many anthemic choruses e.g. I’m a Genius, When It All Comes Down, Evangeline to name a few. 

My personal highlights were ‘Up Here in the North of England’, ‘Understanding Jane’, ‘Clarabella’, ‘When it all Comes Down’ and ‘Merseybeast’ where he intriguingly changed the middle verse lyrics to something like ‘his genitals and anus went missing and pity the poor truck driver when his severed head landed where he was pissing’. 

The gig ended with Ian thanking the crowd for deciding to spend their hard-earned cash watching the band tonight. He seemed genuinely moved and he really connected with the audience! 

Fame and mega sales have managed to elude Ian but he like say Steve Harley are true journeymen of Rock.  They will always be in my “should have been bigger” list along with the likes of The Alarm, Spear of Destiny, Killing Joke. 

Set 1:

  • Fire Inside My Soul (Head Like a Rock 1994)
  • Perambulator (The Small Price of a Bicycle 1985)
  • That’s Why I Believe (Truth and Beauty 1993)

    Icicle Works - Set list Part 2
    They didn’t play it all!!
  • Seven Horses (The Small Price of a Bicycle 1985)
  • Starry Blue Eyed Wonder (Blind 1988)
  • High Time (Blind 1988)
  • Blind (Blind 1988)
  • Evangeline (If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song 1987)
  • Shit Creek (Blind 1988)
  • Up Here in the North of England (If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song 1987)

Set 2:

  • I’m a Genius (Merseybeast 1996)
  • What She Did to My Mind (Permanent Damage 1990)
  • How She Moves (Star Smile Strong 2017)
  • Merseybeast (Merseybeast 1996)
  • Still Got the Fever (Head Like a Rock 1994)
  • Understanding Jane (If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song 1987)
  • You Stone My Soul (Merseybeast 1996)
  • When It All Comes Down (Blind 1988)


  • Clarabella (Come to the Window) – (Star Smile Strong 2017)
  • Hollow Horse (The Small Price of a Bicycle 1985)

Finally, once the lights were up, Ian and the band kindly popped to the small merchandising stall to chat and sign stuff.  Ian kindly signed my ticket stub and I so liked ‘Clarabella’ that I bought the CD which he also signed.  I had a little chat with him and he genuinely seems like a top bloke.The Icicle Works - 21 Oct 2017 Stub signed

Marko – 22 October 2017

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