"THIS IS the most special night of the year," says BBC critic Mark Kermode, spotlit and solo on the O2 Academy's stage in Sheffield.
It's the Comsat Angels' much-anticipated 'reunion' gig in their home city – the first since 1995 and part of the Sensoria festival of film and music.
Kermod e continues: "Last year, on the Culture Show, I interviewed the poet Simon Armitage and the interview soon descended into an argument about which one of us was the biggest Comsats fan. Simon said he owned a 7" of The Red Planet and I said Stephen Fellows gave me his old guitar. I think that makes me the winner."
Kermode proclaims them not only as his favourite band but as the best group in the world. Then a synth-generated swirl of cloudy background music fills the stage, as if to reassert that Comsats are still the intense harbingers of dark post pop they were in the early eighties.
It's a long wait until frontman Stephen Fellows joins to the stage to cheering and applause. Humbly, he says: "I can't believe how many people are here," and he can't. His face shows genuine surprise.
Quickly the rest of the band joins the stage. It's the original line up, with bassist Kevin Bacon, keyboardist/backing vocalist Andy Peake and drummer Mik Glaisher.
The set list is dominated by early material, including Dark Parade and Our Secret (both from the sophomore Sleep No More), After the Rain, Ju Ju Money and Pictures (from Fiction). Perhaps the strongest track of the night – and one of the band's biggest career hits – is Independence Day, for which Fellows is joined on vocals by the rest of the band for the chorus.
There's no banter between songs, apart from the crowd. One man shouts "YOU ROCK, BACON," to which Bacon shoots back with an embarrassed smile. The turnout is impressive and from far afield, according to Kermode's introduction, in which he says there are people from Holland and Australia (also see panel).
But the show's especially significant for Sheffield music-lovers. During the early eighties, the Comsat Angels were a major band. Signed to Polydor, the group – heralded by John Peel – looked like they might reach the higher echelons of rock and roll.
One fan says: "They toured America and Japan – they were big." But Comsats never received the appreciation they deserved.
Tonight, however, people have turned up in droves to catch the post-punk sounds that became the Comsats' trademark.
Simon Armitage's verdict was: "I loved the show. Took me back. Took me forward. Took me to the places that other music doesn't reach."
Refusing to hark back to the past was the Mixed in Sheffield event – the seven-hour launch party of the Mixed in Sheffield website and mix album that documents the city's current electronic artists.
Electro buffs, the city's Beautiful People and contemporary artists flock to Yellow Arch Studios for a late night packed with live performances and DJ sets, including that of Bozz from Sheffield band Hiem, Tommy Vicari, Run Hide Survive and I-Monster.
Glamour reigns as stylish women dressed in retro clothing cluster in groups and men in Ray Ban-like glasses and fitted lumberjack shirts parade the studio's rooms. "What do you call this fashion that people wear up here? I feel like a right 'shaz' (chav in Northern lingo)?" asks one girl, who admits: "I'm from the south and nobody dresses like this."
The event, spanning three rooms and a makeshift bar, gradually descends into a gritty, raucous party as the night progresses. Live performances become heavier, beats harder and the crowd livelier.
Aletti heat the party with a set laden with grooves and shake-down beats. Pygmy Globetrotters' dirty, crazed synth sounds and distorted vocals set the tone of what's to come: edgy, raucous fun.
Darlings of the Splitscreen follow suit, building their set to a crescendo and closing with slick track Hiroshima. The intimate space is packed with a sea of heads bobbing up and down.
The hedonism is captured in Ultramegasuperdeadly's live set, whose blacker-than-black dark beats and screaming results in a mental explosion throughout the crowd.
Raucous and refined, past and present – the events of the weekend show that the city's got as much going for it now as it ever did, it's just a bit darker, and perhaps wilder, than it used to be.
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