THE CUTE LEPERS
THE NIPPLE ERECTORS
It’s a bit of a fantasy line-up, really. Late additions to the bill THE NIPPLE ERECTORS (or Nips, if we’re in polite company) was, of course, the musical springboard for one Shane McGowan – who actually turns up. I mean, there was a healthy book running on whether or not this would be a no-show (which his old cohort and comrade Shanne on bass wryly alluded to by stating from the outset "welcome to our rehearsal"), But there he was, in vintage punk rock togs too. "Fuck off," he barked, by way of greeting, and it felt perversely affectionate. And, in stark contrast to some latter day Pogues shows I’ve witnessed, he sang like he meant it. There was some wonderful by-play with Shanne – his romantic as well as musical partner back in the heady days of ‘76, let’s not forget – and when he did stumble off cue (notably on ‘King Of The Bop’) he’d instinctively flash alternately sheepish/worried glances stage right. In the end he visibly fed off her confidence and the set just swung by. Everyone sang along to ‘Gabrielle’, as you would expect – including Shanne’s daughter on backing vocals. A great feel-good performance.
It is impossible to describe the appeal of JOHNNY MOPED to anyone who isn’t already an initiate. The tall but true tales of ‘kitchen porter Johnny’’s attempts to get a day pass from his famously intolerant wife in order to transmogrify into ‘rock ‘n’ roll Johnny’ have amused for years. But he seems in genuine good spirits here, pale belly slumping over too-tight trousers, alongside trademark black leather jacket. The ‘look’, which you will not be seeing on the catwalks of Milan or Paris this summer, is completed by improbably large NHS specs, from beneath which he squints as his face is engulfed by sweat. Perspiring like a darts player on a treadmill, he was nevertheless ready when the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll came and took him, as we all demanded. And what a great, tight sound his band produced – ‘Hard Lovin’ Man and ‘Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby’ were present and correct, and sounded better than I remembered them (and it has been a long time). People danced and cheered; Johnny beamed like a giddy six-year-old, and the years fell away from his, and our, frames. Everybody should have a fantasy alter ego like Johnny’s, they really should.
THE CUTE LEPERS must have been amused by their headline performance being hijacked by a bunch of ne’er do well ‘77 old-stagers, but it didn’t knock them off stride. It’s a great show, what with the three energetic backing singers and all (though someone have a word about sticking your finger in your ear to harmonise, that’s just unseemly at a punk rock gig). But beneath the showmanship the songs are all there too – with shades of Strummer/Jones on a couple of their cross-layered numbers, echoes of glam rock stomp and the Ramones elsewhere - full on and lots of fun throughout. Impressive, not least for holding the attention and winning the approval of a large section of the crowd who’d really only turned up for the support acts and could easily have ghosted away.
All that for six quid. Who says you can’t have cheap fun in London these days?