Though their roots lie firmly in the early NY punk scene, to many, Blondie remain a super-slick 80s pop act, fronted by one of most stunningly photogenic ladies of the era, and with a canny knack for knocking out great tunes, as well as an astute choice in covers that always eclipsed the originals. And that’s just what we got at the Academy, as the band toured to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their rather fabulous debut album Parallel Lines.
Debbie Harry was sprightly and in fine voice, guitarist Chris Stein was a shade static but note perfect, while drummer Clem Burke was as mesmerising as ever. Strange to see him apparently working to a click track, but thankfully it seemed to have little restraining effect on his naturally busy, exuberant style. A largely middle-aged, polite, but enthusiastic crowd were more than up for favourites like ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, ‘Sunday Girl’, and ‘Call Me’, though elongated versions of ‘Fade Away And Radiate’ and ‘Rapture’ did verge on the self indulgent. On the whole, though, Blondie can still hack it, and in case you were wondering, yes, she still looks pretty good.
The Bridgehouse 2
The room smells of testosterone and cheap hairspray when Californian based punk rockers Total Chaos burst into their first song ‘Dancing On Your Grave’ from their brand new album. There seems to be some lack of movement onstage, but they sound amazing. Rob Chaos delivers his lyrics with conviction and the beer soaked punk audience play their part. Few songs in and few bouncers come and stand in front of the band making sure there won’t be any extra Mohicans on stage. This causes a bit uneasy atmosphere since after all wasn’t punk supposed to break down these rock clichés. Songs such as ‘Attack’ offers their Motley Crue styled guitarist Shawn Smash the opportunity to show his great skills on hard rock soloing. ‘Complete Control’ was their anthem that was supposed to get them on heavy MTV rotation during the mid-90’s commercialisation of punk. Never happened, but surely the bands set and 18 year long career is a true testimony of great song writing. Not a weak song to be heard. Their first encore offers a great surprise. It’s none other than a punked up version of the infamous Monty Python song about the lumberjack wearing high heels! Almost needless to say that the audience also knows the lyrics to this song as well. Couple more classics in the form of ecstatic ‘Riot City’ and they finish off with ‘Boot Party’ sing-along and the leave the drunken audience to stagger fulfilled back into the London night.
Words: Jyrki “Spider” Hämäläinen
Kentish Town Forum
Packed is word bandied about to describe many a gig, but this was, even the cloak room was full. When The Sonics were laying waste to a studio in the North-West USA in 1964 it’s doubtful they ever thought there would be 2000 limeys aged between 16 and 60 screaming for those songs in the 21st century. But there were. The Sonics, may have looked a way bit older than they do in those well-known and grainy black and white album covers but age hasn’t tamed them. Anyone that attending the gig desperate to see the band they never dreamed they’d witness in the flesh but fearing the worst of the performance soon had those fears dispelled. Rob Lind’s sax honked and squealed just as it did back in the day, Gerry Roslie’s screams were as fearsome as they were when they pushed studio needles into the red and Larry Parypa was using the exact same guitar for fuck sake. Every classic Sonics tune was hammered and every cover they made their own, owned once again. Even tracks from the much maligned ‘Introducing’ were blasted out with an amends making aggression. Head’s On Backwards indeed, the whole audience was knocked out, knocked bandy, blown away by a legendary band that didn’t just run through the motions but sucked on Rock N Roll and spat it out shredded just as they had back in the 1960s. ‘This is the national anthem of rock n roll’ announced Rob Lind before launching into their chord twisting version of ‘Louie Louie’ but their anthem is The Witch, they saved it ‘till last then blasted it out as if the decades had never passed, Roslie screamed, and everyone, and I mean everyone, screamed with him and not a neck hair was left flaccid. Another oft-used word sums it – Awesome.
The Purple Turtle
First one on the bill was Billy Club who offered their version of the GBH-sound. In fact they even started with a lesser know GBH cover ‘Three Piece Suite’. The Dresdens were next with their racing American influenced punk rock and roll, much in the vein of Zeke. Guitarist and the highly energetic bassist made a difference to the sound by sharing the vocals and this Winnebago Deal side project looks certail to go places this year. Riot Squad kept the sounds of streets going with the help of their intense vocalist. The anti-nazi skinheads had a hint of UK82 in their sound and got the crowd going. GBH kicked off their set with ‘Race Against Time’ and it was evident that band was in great shape. Few numbers in and into ‘Diplomatic Community’ and the crowd goes absolutely mental. Songs like ‘Freak’ and ‘Crush ‘Em’ also give guitarist Jock the chance to bring in some brilliant solo bits. The band also plays new material from the upcoming album and songs such as ‘Kids Get Down’ are as great as the old classics. Colin sports his legendary haircut along with the leather jacket and comes out with his usual witty remarks. Their biggest commercial hit ‘Give Me Fire’ gets dedicated to the smoking ban and ‘No Survivors’ gets described as feeling like a Stevie Wonder in snow storm. The intimate atmosphere of the venue clearly contributes to the evening and the band has never sounded better. They end their tight set with stunning version of the Clash anthem ‘White Riot’. And what a riot the night had been.
Jyrki “Spider” Hämäläinen
THE RUTS DVD SCREENING
Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Since the monumental concert that took place last summer that amounted to guitarist Paul Fox’s final stand, the trickle of affection and recognition that in the Ruts we had a potentially world-conquering musical force has become – well, flood might be a strong word. But it constitutes a welcome reappraisal of a group who really were the equal of more celebrated peers.
That terrific gig – featuring a roster of punk’s good and great, has now been released on DVD. And on first viewing it captures much of the intimacy and emotion of the event. Of course, the highlight was the once in a lifetime opportunity to catch Henry Rollins walking a mile in Malcolm Owen’s shoes and do a tremendous job of it. And he’s back again tonight to compere events. But as a gut-busting entrée to the premiere, we have a traffic jam of artists here to pay their respects.
Day 21 – Jimmy Pursey’s new band – were first up. Jimmy is Jimmy to the nth. Closed with a version of ‘Borstal Breakout’ that was fun to hear. Alabama 3 injected a frisson of honky tonk irreverence into proceedings – doing a head count on still extant Ruts was the definitive moment of black humour all night. Dirty Strangers, Paul Fox’s old band featuring his son on drums, offered up an emotive ‘Love In Vain’. We’ll skip over P.A.I.N.’s set, thanks. On to the ever reliable TV Smith, who had never knowingly been undersold in a live context. The acoustic ‘Babylon’s Burning’ was a treat. Vice School – led by Beki Bondage with members of Girlschool – did a fantastic job on ‘Something That I Said’ but then murdered ‘West One’. JC of the Members/Disciples evoked the full majesty of ‘Jah Wars’, followed inevitably by ‘Sound Of The Suburbs’. Then, in the absence of Johnny Moped (I guess Brenda just wouldn’t let Johnny come out to play tonight) Captain Sensible tackled ‘It Was Cold’, which brought cheers of recognition, pinged through ‘Neat Neat Neat’ and then dragged Rollins onstage for ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’. Grand! Profits from the CD go to charity so treat yourself to one here: http://www.theruts.bigcartel.com/
THE LIVING END
St. Kilda Prince Bandroom
There’s a curious atmosphere in the Bandroom tonight. You’d think The Living End’s only Australian gig this year would be a buzzing beehive of expectation, but instead the audience (a mix of die-hard fans and attendees for some tedious showbiz awards bash at the same venue) are simply happy to be here. Nothing wrong with that mind, but you’d expect more a tad more rock n’ roll spirit to infuse the proceedings. Still, once the band take to the stage, we’re reminded why we like them so much. Tonight’s gig is a mixture of old, new and somewhere in between as the boys dust off the studio cobwebs and get to business, and business is, mostly, good. Guitarist Chris Cheney is something of a shredmaster general and it’s nice to see a young man in such dapper clothes as the boys tear through their set. Only problem is, while the gig is definitely ‘good’, it rarely crosses the divide into ‘great’. A shame, as this outfit has honed their craft through years of playing toilets and you just know that, were circumstances in their favour, they would be electrifying. Still, we get some good rockin’ tonight (spoilt only by a questionable cover of Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ with vocals courtesy of that chimp from Jet) and everyone leaves happy. I’ve seen bands do more with less, but perhaps I’m just too cynical. The boys done good.
FEEDING OF THE 5000
London Shepherds Bush Empire
In 1977 a group of anarchists called themselves CRASS released an album called ‘The Feeding Of The 5000’. Soon after they were investigated by the CIA, MI5 and the KGB. During their seven years as a band they attempted to change the world. For the millions who listened to the message they articulated with such brutal precision – they did.
While much had been made of Steve Ignorant’s decision to perform ‘The Feeding Of The 5000’ from the Guardian newspaper to punk messageboards, the electricity of the anticipation in the run-up to tonight soon gave way as the military drumbeat of ‘Do They Owe Us A Living’ cut away all concerns as nothing less than a political juggernaut burst through West London. With tracks such as ‘Banned From The Roxy’, ‘Punk Is Dead’ and ‘So What’ within the setlist, how could tonight ever have failed? As the brilliant punk masterpieces ‘Bloody Revolutions’ and ‘Big A Little A’ found themselves aired later on in the set they also found themselves with a backing choir of four thousand belligerent punks who, by the looks on their faces, could still not believe both their eyes or ears as the music of CRASS through Steve Ignorant once again filled the airwaves. Steve Ignorant achieved what many thought impossible tonight. A virtuoso delivery and performance found itself coupled alongside the unconditional love felt for the songs that channeled through to the faces in the crowd and somehow beyond. It was nothing less than perfect in every way. Billed as a night of love, music, film, performance and anger, tonight transcended all of those emotions and in an age where we have been accustomed to homogenized corporate punk charlatans became nothing less than magical. If there is no authority but
Yourself, let’s hope Steve Ignorant performs again. It’s rare nights like these that do change people’s lives. Gig of the year.
London Brixton Academy
So here we go again. Third time lucky? After the Pistols original reformation was a triumph at Finsbury Park, the next one at Crystal Palace was a sloppy, unrehearsed show. And so what about tonight at Brixton? Well from the moment a country squire attired John Lydon takes the stage it seems they haven’t really bothered putting a lot into this. Lydon’s vocals now exaggerate ‘Pretty Vacant’ to torture point and the once cool as fuck Steve Jones hunches his bulking frame over the guitar to spew out, at the best, mid paced pub rock. In fact, a voice close to Big Cheese reliably tells us they only bothered ‘rehearsing’ 4 songs before tonight. So yes, it is the Sex Pistols, but it is also a load of bollocks. Having seen the Ruts reform recently, they would have wiped the floor with these Pistols, even though one of their members was dying! No, tonight was a simple cash-in – and none of Lydon’s sarcasm can hide the fact that they were terribly average. Apparently they got better as their residency went on but if this is the future then England is Dreaming. At £45 a ticket, ever got the feeling you’ve been cheated? Oh, and why, oh why, did they get the Cribs to support them?
SIOUXSIE Eiffel Tower Paris September 28th
Unveiling material from her long-anticipated solo album in the intimate (and
frankly, breathtaking) setting of the first-level bar of le Tour Eiffel as part of
the Coke Music Discovery sessions, you'd be hard-pushed to top Siouxsie for sheer
sense of occasion; poised in the chilly Paris night several hundred feet over the
city centre, tonights venue is so far removed from the humdrum dive-bar location of
your usual rock-circuit bash, it's something of a masterstroke. As the intro-tape of
Morricone's Ecstasy of Gold gives way to the insistent dance-punk groove of album
opener 'Into A Swan', Siouxsie executes an immaculate grand entrance. Zippered into
an outrageously slinky metallic catsuit affair, with her signature shock of black
hair( that launched the look of a thousand Goth girls) and cats-eyes warpaint,
Siouxie's unassailable stage presence is as captivating and startling as it ever
was. High-kicking playfully over the heads of an adoring front-row, Siouxsie stakes
a claim on the here-and-now without so much as a backwards glance to Banshees days
and her influence on Gwen Stefani and even old' Madonna herself are obvious here
tonight. Through a shimmering set of new material from this year's Mantaray CD, our
girl undulates like a cobra to the album's eastern-tinged rhythms, working the stage
with a winning blend of feisty assertiveness and spooky entrancement. Loveless
rides out the darker currents of disintegrating romance, while 'If It Doesn't Kill
You' smoulders with torchy regret; 'Sea Of Tranquility' glides on tropical
currents, 'They Follow You' flows sinuously. Bowing out with a jazzed-out reprise
of 'Swan' and an unexpected romp through the Doors 'Hello I Love You', Siouxsie and
her new musical ensemble take their leave and we spill out onto the observation deck
to contemplate Paris' grand night time vista. A landmark show in every sense,
tonight was a fitting launch pad for the new solo Sioux and a unique event