After years of an ill-fated romance with the media, it’s a day that many fans thought they’d never see. But without any fuss or ado, the Ordinary Boys are in Manchester tonight, with a nostalgic show tailored to the fans that supported them all the way.

Once inside Club Academy I am struck by the odd atmosphere inside the venue. The Smith’s inspired supporting bands hold up a good show and each play a tight set. But the crowd seems sparse and disconnected somewhat. They are only here for one thing.

And there he is: Samuel Preston, casually leaning on the merchandise stall talking to fans. There is something inherently peculiar about seeing the face that once splattered the pages of Hello! magazine just standing there; as if the past few years never took place.

He is surprisingly warm and down to earth, and delights many fans with photos, hugs and free signed posters. But he looks incredibly tired, and on speaking to him it appears that the relentless task of touring has worn him out already – even after just one date. Yet after watching his performance on stage later, it is not hard to see why.

The club is by no means full when the Ordinary Boys enter the stage, but considering the noise levels of the hardcore fans at the front, it may as well be. As the tour is mostly a tribute to their first album, the boys open the gig with the title track, ‘Over the Counter Culture,’ which goes down a storm. In accordance with the album they follow with ‘The List Goes On’ and ‘Week In Week Out,’ and so on.

It becomes clear that this is not a comeback tour – this is a tour for the fans and fans only, and they clearly show their appreciation back. Without any barriers at the front, manic fans keep pushing themselves further and further onto the stage, attempting to get a grip of Preston. Without further ado, Preston leaps out into the crowd and after half a minute of a successful stage dive, gets sucked into the mob of adoring (mainly sweaty male) fans, who seem to keep him in their grasp for a suspicious amount of time.

Back up on stage, Preston shows boundless energy, jumping off the drum-kit, swinging on ceiling pipes and knocking over amplifiers, to the apparent horror of the roadie who had to keep running onto the stage to sort out the mess. His antics are a reminder of his roots, harking back to a more anarchic, old school stage presence, before the clean-cut, modified pop.

The ska-tinged indie rock is coupled with some great reggae styled interludes, a sound evocative of The Specials, Madness and so on. This atmosphere is later built on with their classic cover of ‘Little Bitch’ and a version of the Buzzcocks’ ‘What Do I Get?’ which proves highly popular with the This is England inspired crowd.

The stand out tracks are obvious really, ‘Talk Talk Talk’ and ‘Weekend Revolution’ are lapped up by the fans, as are all the other album tracks. However the gem of the night is unsurprisingly their huge hit, ‘Boys Will Be Boys,’ and upon hearing the opening first chords the club turns from a sweaty bounce-a-thon to a fitting full scale brawl. During the encore with ‘Seaside,’ the fans decide to join the band and security guards battle with beer stained bodies heaving themselves onstage. One fan steals the mic and begins howling into it. The ending of the gig is unclear; the band mysteriously leaves the stage amidst the pandemonium and the lights fade to black. Nobody is quite sure whether the show is over, but it is. Preston has departed as curiously as he appeared. 

But something saddens me about my night. I can’t help but feel angry that a band with such promise had to end like they did. Although Preston has now been embarking on other projects such as working as a songwriter for other artists, this show is a painful reminder of how popular and successful a band the Boys could, or perhaps, should have been.

However, all in all, this gig was no ordinary gig. This was a band attempting to reconnect with the past, to turn back the clock – to recapture the days of a few, dedicated followers, disgruntled roadies, cheap merch and a time when the band was the property of the fans, not the media. The crowd certainly got the mayhem that they came for, and I had a violently good time. This was not just a gig, but a little piece of music history that somehow found its way into 2011.

I'm a huge music lover, being a regular gig and festival goer, singer songwriter, tv/radio presenter and reviewer for Silent Radio.