Form is temporary, class is permanent - Ian McNabb at The Crossing, Digbeth

IT'S been a while since ex-Icicle Works frontman Ian McNabb ventured into these parts with a full band behind him - so long , in fact, it's almost forgivable to have forgotten just what a remarkable talent the man is.

In an age when few artists' days in the limelight last more than a couple of years before descending into anonymity, McNabb's chequered 34-year career bears testament to a great songwriter, and one who has probably forgotten more about how to rock than most of his peers ever get to learn.

And certainly the several hundred hardy souls who braved the gales and torrential rain to witness the outspoken Liverpudlian's return at impressive Digbeth venue The Crossing on Saturday night were treated to a show to remember.

Opening with classic golden oldie You Must Be Prepared To Dream, McNabb and three-piece outfit Cold Shoulder hit the ground running, a band on top of their game, and a lesson all so-called contemporaries would do well to sit up and pay attention to.

New album Eclectic Warrior may have passed largely under the radar, but was one of the highlights of 2013, and anthemic tracks such as Smirtin', No Hero To Me and My Life To Live Again, powerfully driven and bristling with attitude, were simply made to be played live.

Of course, with McNabb's impressive back catalogue, there's always an issue with what makes it into the set and what doesn't, and you can't please all of the people all of the time, but a McNabb set wouldn't be a McNabb set without the likes of long-loved classics Evangeline, Fire Inside My Soul and When It All Comes Down. Suffice to say, he didn't disappoint.

Acoustic encore takes on Hollow Horse and Before All Of This showcased the talent of the man stripped to the bare bones, before his cohorts returned for absolutely thumping takes on Stood Before Saint Peter (unexpected) and Hurricane Elaine (even more unexpected).

The obligatory anthem Understanding Jane brought to night to a close, almost taking the roof off in the process and as the faithful poured back out into a truly wet and miserable night, there was no-one to see without a smile on their face.

Special mention, incidentally, must go to The Crossing - big stage, stunning light rig, crystal clear acoustics, drinks in plastic cups from bottles and cans from the fridge. Never mind the monstrous corporate venues with overpriced flat lager, muddy sound and no soul. This, kids, is how you listen to live music. Check it out.

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