Despite initially splitting up after just five years in 1998, with several extended hiatus', Black Grape turned 30 this year. While there was no mention of this anniversary, new material debuted from their forthcoming fourth album, Orange Head. Black Grape ensured this show was special with impressive main support act former Inspiral Carpets frontman Tom Hingley, who played classic hits including "This Is How It Feels" and a superb interpretation of Gloria Jones' "Tainted Love".
Whilst Black Grape certainly owes a debt to Hingley for galvanising the crowd, the casual, undramatic entrance of Black Grape's Shaun Ryder and Kermit earned the duo ecstatic applause. Ryder's sporadic jokes throughout about how bad it is to do drugs were well received by the Electric Ballroom, as were his halcyon chants that "the nineties were so fucking good".
In many respects, the setlist was a homage to the nineties. Over half the setlist consisted of songs from Black Grape's debut LP, It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah. The songs spoke for themselves. No visuals of the LP cover art featuring a pop art photo of Carlos the Jackal was required to transport the audience back in time. However, several songs from their last 2017 album, Pop Voodoo, were as well received as those from It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah.
Even more spectacular was how well the new material from the forthcoming Orange Head LP was received. "Pimp Wars" opened with "Step On" guitar riffs without the nineties keys, which then bloomed with gorgeous funk and grooves which were perfected with Kermit's rap. "Milk" penetrated the audience with pop beats and heavy bass, while "Dirt" saw the duo blend their Manchester-based sound with hip-hop.
For an act that until the late 2010s disproportionately leaned on the debut LP, it would have been easy for Ryder to have borrowed Happy Monday's material to fill the set along with songs where he appeared as a guest on other artists' songs including the Gorillaz "DARE" and accept that Black Grape was a short-lived, but pleasurable nineties time capsule. Instead, Black Grape has not only influenced the tens, but they are also likely, based on this Electric Ballroom performance, to impact the twenties, too.