Some bands are like fine wine, they get better with age.
After 21 years and five albums, you almost come to expect seasoned, accomplished music from Neverland wherever they are playing – be it in a small candlelit venue such as the George and Dragon pub in Belper, or on a huge festival stage.
Playing as a three-piece here, the Derbyshire band were Adrian Dent on vocals, Mick Doyle on mandolin and Andy Cooper on bass.
Having seen a few incarnations of the band, you very rarely get the same gig twice and this was no exception. Using a stripped back acoustic sound, the trio played two blistering sets to a full crowd.
Even my friends who ‘weren’t really big fans of this kind of music’ ended the evening converted by the energy the band brought. Footstomping instrumentals showed off the talent of Mick and Andy, who wowed both the musos and Friday night drinkers alike.
Besides their impeccable playing, you couldn’t help but be amazed at how deftly Adrian’s vocals switched between edgier songs like Hey Joe and poppier numbers like Elephants Can Dance. Intense, potent, it’s a grisly lived-in voice, as suited as a voice can be for the bluesy rock style Neverland play.
To those unfamiliar with Neverland’s music the band accommodated the mixed audience with occasional, but familiar covers of songs by the Beatles ‘Norwegian Wood’, Hendrix ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl’. The chemistry between the members was evident, stopping the gig now and again for irreverent banter with old roadies and to share a joke.
Finishing the second set on a Celtic tip with bright Talking Tree and epic Rain Like Stars & The Blues - from 1994 album Spiral - the band, bolstered by a huge cheers from the crowd, carried on to perform two encores, the last of which was Dirty Old Town, a song that they played to perfection and by that I mean delivered lyrically with all the precision of a town drunk.
Rough around the edges, sure, but what makes a good band great is their ability to grow and change as the years move on. That’s how Neverland stopped being part of a scene and became a local legend.