Zoetermeer's a bizarre place. When I first heard of it, I pictured it a small, quaint Dutch town, full of gorgeous old timber-framed houses, beautiful churches possibly a market square and some cosy, inviting watering holes.
It certainly isn't how I had imagined it! It's a sprawling modern town which someone described as the "Milton Keynes of Holland. "
I think the town planners were probably having a bit of an off day when Zoetermeer was created. Everything seems so disconnected. The "Central" station, is anything but central, being at least a mile or two from the town's centre. And though we did actually find a couple of jolly decent pubs during our stay, I don't think Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen will be featuring the town as a “must see” destination in any forthcoming Holiday programmes!
But what Zoetermeer does have going for it is De Boerderij, one of the finest music venues in the whole of Europe. It's no wonder this strange town has been featured on the back of so many Tour T-shirts over the years.
And that's exactly why It Bites are here, to perform their first show in 15 years - a warm-up and dress rehearsal for the much anticipated UK Tour.
Even from the sound check on Sunday afternoon, you can just sense that this is going to be a very special gig. The two weeks of intense rehearsals deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside have clearly paid off. As the band run through a few numbers, they are tight and polished and have an extra weapon on their side - volume. The songs sound huuuge and Bob's new Gold Sparkle drum kit sounds superb.
With the sound check over Bob, Dick and JB are relaxed, chatty and clearly looking forward to getting on with the show. John Mitchell however is quiet and seems pretty nervous as he nurses a large glass of water. In all honesty, this is probably one of the biggest gigs of his life and as the new front man of such an iconic and popular band he must feel he has a lot to prove. And a lot to live up to...
The band hits the stage at 9.30 and JM’s nerves have obviously disappeared. He immediately takes control and confidently prowls the stage forming an instant connection with the enthusiastic crowd who are all clearly very, very happy to see It Bites again after all these years.
It's difficult to write a review and not mention the setlist but I don't want to give anything away to people who want it to be a surprise. The Set list is available on the forum though if anyone's curiosity is getting the better of them...
It's a very well-balanced set featuring a great selection of It Bite's classic material which goes down an absolute storm. The audience must have been as busy as the band doing their homework as they sing along. The set is punctuated with three superb and beautifully crafted new tracks which are equally well received, especially Breathe which has got It Bites written all over it. If there's going to be a single from the new album, this should be it.
Even though this is a warm-up show, the band’s performance is pretty much faultless. Bob and Dick create a bullet-proof backline.
John Beck proves once again why he is considered by many of his peers to be one of the best keyboard players in the business. And John Mitchell turns in one of the best performances of his life. His vocals are absolutely spot on and just looking around at the audience you can see that they are very impressed with his abilities as a guitar player and a front man.
As the band close the show, it's clear from the audience reaction that they have had a very good night indeed. And with big smiles all round, so have the band.
For anyone going to the shows in Workington, Rotherham, Glasgow, Birmingham, London or Manchester, you're in for a real treat. And for anyone thinking about whether or not to go, I can assure you, cancel that holiday, decline that wedding invitation or get that babysitter booked!! You really don't want to miss this band live.
I'm certainly looking forward to another It Bites fix on Friday in Workington. And despite what I've said about Zoetermeer, if it's scheduled into the Tour next year, I'm sure I'll be paying this strange town a visit once again...
Words: Paul Tippett