Friday, 4 December 2009

717 THE BUZZCOCKS, The Buzzcocks(!), Bristol University Anson Rooms, Wednesday 29 November 2006

Well, the Buzzcocks. These old punk rock founders had been on the reunion gig circuit for about 15 years now, and I’d threatened to go on a number of occasions, but it took Rachel’s pregnancy to spur us into action, as gig opportunities may well likely diminish for awhile when baby comes. So let’s get this one out of the way!

So we drove down, hitting Bristol about 8 and parking up easier than expected, nipping upstairs in this suspiciously quiet venue. Got a drink in the bar, which was populated with old punk lags, all mohican-ed up for the occasion. And occasion it was – part of the Buzzcocks 30th Anniversary tour, the gig being accompanied by a slide and video show encapsulating their 30 years punk rock service. Rach and I popped into the main hall, where the PA music was better ("Zerox", "Dot Dash" for starters) and checked out the slideshow, including the photo from which I drew the accompanying pic, back when I was an early teen young punker!

Not so young now, and neither are the Buzzcocks. Supporting themselves, they came on at 9 for the first set, ripping into some unfamiliar and newer sounding stuff which veered from not so bad to not so good. Oddly enough, the better newies (e.g. "Friends", "Isolation") were sung by Steve Diggle, not main vocalist Pete Shelley, and it was Diggle who emerged as the main man. Rabble rousing, arms windmilling, ageless and rock star skinny, unlike Shelley who despite still being the better singer, with his strange, slightly effeminate, precisely enunciated voice, had aged badly, hair thinning and with an expanding chin collection.

40 minutes in and I chanced nipping to the loo, only for the first of their clutch of classic singles, "I Don’t Mind", to be trotted out. D’oh! Nevertheless, we expected more from the second set, which kicked off at 10 after a 10 minute interval. However this was mainly old "B" sides and early album tracks, better but still unfamiliar to my ears. The Buzzcocks for me were primarily a singles band, their snappy pop sensibilities better over 2 minute bursts, with their "Singles Going Steady" collection, obviously, the zenith of their output. So the set took a holding pattern until the end, when punk classics such as "Love You More" and set highlight "What Do I Get?" got an airing.

Unfortunately, they’d left their best numbers to the encores. Unfortunate because by now they were visibly tiring and ragged, with bum notes aplenty. So "Promises", a surprising "Boredom", "Ever Fallen In Love" and a nonetheless fun "Orgasm Addict" were roughly manhandled. Don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoyed hearing all these songs, reminders of my wild youth, but even next to bands of similar vintage, e.g. Killing Joke and Stiff Little Fingers, the Buzzcocks fell some way short.

Still, a good night out, glad I got to see them, but probably won’t bother again. Never mind, the Buzzcocks!

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