The comeback kings of 2017 continue to cut a rampaging swathe across the 2018 musical landscape, and this time there's happily another witness to this; my old friend Paul Crowfoot! Having monitored The Skids' triumphant return from afar (let's face it, you can't really get that much further "afar" than Seattle!) and having reconciled to the fact they're not likely to come his way, Paul got in touch (ironically as I was queueing up to get in the Buffalo Tom gig!) to confirm he was combining some personal UK business and a Chrimbo visit to his folks with a Skids gig run! Stuart and I were already booked for this one, but were more than happy to be joined by another Skids devotee, for what promised to be another epic titanic night of anthemic punk rock.
So I picked Paul up early from his 'rents and we caught up at my place awhile (it seems like 5 minutes, but it's actually been 2 1/2 years since we were plane-spotting from his Heathrow hotel before that Close Lobsters 100 Club gig, no. 988!), before Stuart silently rolled up in his electric car, and we had a gig-chat fuelled drive down to Brizzle, avoiding some traffic queues and parking up around the corner from this scuzzy old venue, located in the middle of a run-down industrial park. Only been here the once before (The Wannadies, gig 433, waaaaay back in March 2000!) but it all came flooding back when we got in prompt at 7.30 and I saw the corner stage! A quick chat with our friendly merch guy Gordon, before we were assaulted by the first of 2 formulaic punk supports, Borrowed Time, on at 7.45. The spiky peroxide vocalist threw his sock into the sparse early crowd after their opener, which was more entertaining than the song! However, at least their ramalama punk was stuck in a 1978 groove, recalling a number of second-tier shouty punk acts such as Drones, Killjoys etc, rather than the 1980's homogeneous leather'n'studs dreck, and often showing some semblance of a tune here and there. One number nicked Iggy's "Lust For Life" rhythm, and I enjoyed the sincerity of a couple of numbers dedicated to local punk Sue Barnett, and The Buzzcocks' mainman Pete Shelley, both tragically lost too soon this week. So, much better than other support Knock Off, a Fred Perry-clad trio of 1,000 mph noiseniks channelling sub-Upstarts "street" Oi/ punk, the type that put me off punk back in the day. The vocalist's banter was way better than the "music", which felt like the aural equivalent of a Julian Dicks late tackle, and I escaped to the loos to avoid a chunk of the set and look up the Strictly results! (No, I'm not joking...)
We took a spot near the front, house left, as the roadies set up. Sure enough, at 9.30 the backwards loop of "Peaceful Times" kicked in and The Skids took the stage, vocalist Richard Jobson last but first to speak, announcing, "here we are, let's raise the roof!" as the band powered into the strident march of "Animation". The marvellous descending riff of "Of One Skin" followed, a boisterous yet good-natured moshpit accompanying it, prompting Jobson to warn, "pace yourselves... there's a long way to go, and a long way to Bristol A&E!"
The Skids were on top form tonight, tight, road-tested and together, and none more so than their leader; whether gleefully shadow-boxing and twirling in his usual strong-armed dervish dance, or quipping along with the relaxed demeanour of a stand-up comedian (a lengthy diatribe about what goes on in the nearby Forest Of Dean, a comment about his energetic dancing - "I started this tour 235 kilos and I'm [now] practically withering away! " - and his story of how bassist Bill Simpson started the band in 1916 after the Battle of Flanders (!) all drawing some laughter), Jobbo was the mesmeric focal point throughout. Wingman Bruce Watson, again a more than able deputy for the sadly-departed Stuart Adamson, was in fantasy band camp throughout, perma-grin fixed in place, furious riffery underpinning the seething anthemic power of the material. And a few curveballs too - following a superb, roof-raising double singalong of "Hurry On Boys" and "Woman In Winter", Jobbo announced a never-played "Sweet Suburbia", getting halfway through a messy rendition before segueing into "Albert Tatlock" (drummer Mike Baillie again playing the off-kilter Devo "Satisfaction" drum pattern!), then into an unplanned "Pretty Vacant"! "Circus Games" was as usual a stately and robust highlight, the epic thrill-ride of "Into The Valley" was earlier than usual ("we normally finish with [it] but we love you so much we want to keep going!"), and the drum-propelled gallop of "Olympian" closed out the set proper.
The voluble vocalist also hit the "Serious" button a time or two, dedicating an early "Saints Are Coming" to Stuart Adamson, then during the encore, he delivered a heartfelt tribute to Pete Shelley, conducting the audience in an impromptu singalong of the hook to "Ever Fallen In Love", either side of a full-bodied yet reverential run-through of The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get?" Newie "One Last Chance" ended a brilliant set; the band, dripping with sweat, had given their all and so had we, being buffeted about at the edge of the mosh, but not caring a jot. And we all scored setlists, Stuart having his handed to him by Jobbo. Result!
Caught our breath, then home. Glad Paul got to see The Skids in such rare form; long may this comeback continue!