Tell my 19-year-old self that, five years on, I’d be spending the last weekend before Christmas watching a ukelele band in concert, he would probably think that you’d been adding too much whisky to your egg-nog.
But this was no ordinary concert. And Sheffield’s Everly Pregnant Brothers are fast establishing a reputation as a band like no other.
It’s not even the quirky use of the four-string instrument made famous by George Formby in time gone by. Or their even quirkier repertoire of catchy anthems, which often take inspiration from well-known hits before being given a comedic South Yorkshire angle. Instead, the Brothers’ appeal is simple, innate, in their sheer Sheffieldness. From the moment they stepped on stage as their own support group, posing as a group of wannabe rock’n’rollers who work at Greggs, this was a Steel City love in - and the packed O2 Academy lapped it up. Cover versions of Pulp’s Disco 2000 and the Arctic Monkeys’ smash I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor were lapped up by a lively and receptive sold-out crowd, but that was nothing compared to the main event - especially when founding Brother, local artist and Sheffield Telegraph cartoonist Pete McKee reappeared, dressed - surprisingly, and worryingly, convincingly - as a Nannan. The Brothers have come a long way in five years, since they played places like the Greystones.
The charismatic Shaun Doane - an unlikely frontman, you may think, at a gentle-giant-sized 6ft 5in - may be a world away from the likes of Bob Marley, but his reworking of No Woman, No Cry into an ode to Henderson’s Relish, British Gas and his grandmother’s pie is a masterclass. ‘Oyl in’t Ruwad’ (non-Sheffield translation: Hole in the Road) is another improbable masterpiece paying tribute to a landmark that pre-dated many of the crowd singing along. But Doane and the Brothers took us all right back, before a rousing rendition of the Pogues classic Fairytale of New York - featuring special guests Richard Hawley and England cricketer Joe Root - brought the night to a satisfying conclusion.
Pulp drummer Nick Banks continued the Steel City theme throughout, while double bass player Johnny Woods and talented vocalist Niamh Kavanagh, both from Sheffield rock’n’roll band Carmen Ghia and the Hot Rods, also wowed the crowd.
It is a pessimistic Sheffield trait to under-appreciate the things that make our city great, but this group of part-time fun-seekers showed on Saturday that they are one of our shining lights.
Or more appropriately, in Brothers speak: Aye, it wa’ an alreet gig at t’O2, wa’nt it?