If its songs of socialism, everyday heroism and George Formby parodies, it must be The Young Un’s 

There have been few albums this year that have affected MV quite as much The Young’un’s “Strangers”. A quite wonderful collection, thought-provoking, funny, brilliantly written and expertly played, it will stand as one of the records of the year.

The North East based, largely unaccompanied, trio are used to these accolades. They’ve got more awards than you can shake a stick at, after all, but like everyone else they’ve been stung by the parking charges that Birmingham Council have just bought in.

“We’ve written you a protest song about it, we’re going to play it in the second half!” jokes David Eagle, one of the three gifted singers that they possess.

You wouldn’t put it past them, either, because the true gift of the album is the way they weave these tales about real life events.

The three of them crowd around one microphone as they start with “Cable Street”, written from the perspective of a young participant in the anti-fascist clashes of 1936, before taking their places separately for “Tom Payne’s Bones.”

Telling the stories behind the songs really makes them come alive here. “These Hands”, explains the de facto leader of the group, Sean Cooney, is about Sybil Phoenix, the first black woman to be awarded the MBE, and it is just one of the many tales of everyday heroism that they play here.

The wonderful singalong of “Ghafoor’s Bus” is perhaps the best. Concerning itself with a man from their hometown of Stockton On Tees that feeds the hungry and the homeless overseas from a converted coach. It is to their credit, though, that there is nothing remotely po-faced about them. On the contrary, there is an incredible warmth and sense of fun about the whole night.

That they can juxtapose this with the heart-breaking – and yet uplifting – “Be The Man” about the anti-homophobia campaigner Matthew Ogston (it is made all the more poignant by the fact that Matt is in the audience tonight) is testament to their skill, as is the fact that “Bob Cooney’s Miracle” mentions corned beef bun’s in its lyrics.

The second half kicks off with one of the few they play that they didn’t write. “A Place Called England” is a fine affair though, as is the stoic “You Won’t Find Me On Benefit Street”.

What happens next shows why The Young’uns win all those awards. Not only are the three marvellous vocalists – their harmonies are special – they can write a song like “Dark Water” about a Syrian refugee then follow it up with the riotous George Formby parody “When I’m Using Windows”. MV knows what you’re thinking, and yeah, parody songs are usually crap. This is the exception as Eagle, very much the joker in the pack to the dry wit of Cooney and Michael Hughes, excels.

One more story of heroism, “Carriage 12” and two inspired by the North East, “The Hartlepool Pedlar” and “Jenny Waits For Me” and it’s into the encores.

They are joined by the support band The Hut People for a version of “National Express” and time is called on a brilliant night with “John Ball”.

Somehow, a song about a prominent member of the Peasant’s Revolt is fitting here. This is a celebration of the working class and a celebration of everything that is good in people wherever they are from. Award winners with good cause. The Young’uns are growing older magnificently.

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