Mark Taylor, Bristol Post – March 23rd 2000

NEXT week, after more than a decade out of the spotlight, Prefab Sprout embark on their first tour for 10 years.

The second date of the Uncaged 2000 tour at the Colston Hall next Friday marks a return to Bristol after an even longer absence.

Bristol music fans with long memories may recall the band’s gigs in the early 80s at the much-missed Studio in Frogmore Street.

I can still remember one memorable performance in 1984 to promote the classic first album, Swoon.

The current tour follows the recent 38 Carat Collection Anthology, which featured all of Prefab Sprout’s best material including When Loves Break Down, The King Of Rock And Roll, Cars And Girls and Faron Young.

Although their singles never really achieved the commercial success they deserved, the band’s albums – Swoon, Steve McQueen, Protest Songs, From Langley Park To Memphis and Jordan: The Comeback – became regarded as classics.

Frontman Paddy McAloon is still one of the best songwriters in Britain, and although he has been locked away in his Newcastle studio for the past few years, he has been far from idle.

A reluctant star who prefers to let his songs do the talking, Paddy turned down requests for an interview, but brother Martin, the band’s bass player, was happy to discuss the return of Prefab Sprout.

Now teaching in Newcastle, he admits that he hasn’t played any live gigs since the last Prefab Sprout tour and he’s unsure about just who will turn up for next week’s gigs.

He says: “The people I lecture are in their 20s and a lot of them don’t remember us. I understand how quickly you age in this business – I’m still shocked that Harry Hill is younger than me and he’s been on This Is Your Life.”

So why has it taken so long to get back on the road?

“After the last tour, Paddy wanted to devote his time to writing. People assume that if you’re away for 10 years that you aren’t doing anything but he works everyday. Some of his projects never see the light of day.

“It varies from day to day, depending on his mood. One day he’ll be working on really commercial stuff and the next he’ll be doing something really off the wall which nobody would pick up in a million years.

“But it’s still valid that he does those things and I think that’s why people have stuck with us for as long as they have because we do what we do and if we like it then hopefully somebody else will.

The most striking difference about Prefab Sprout in 2000 is Paddy’s physical appearance. His grey hair, bushy beard and glasses will certainly cause a few raised eyebrows when fans see him next week.

Martin says that a lot of fans have been loyally waiting for them to return, and the new website has been instrumental in rekindling interest.

“There have always been fan websites, but this official one has been well received in the industry and we’re very proud of it.”

Prefab Sprout have been rehearsing for the past few weeks and they’ve been going well, although Martin says he had to brush up on a few songs.

“I had to start listening to our records and the ones I can remember every line of are from the Swoon period – it was all the stuff since Swoon that I’d forgotten!

“We’ll be performing as a four-piece, as opposed to the seven-piece we were on the last tour, so we had to approach a lot of the songs differently. I’m really looking forward to it.”