Monday, 30 January 2012

839 THE BOOMTOWN RATS, Swindon Musical Entertainment and Cultural Arena (MECA), Saturday 28 January 2012

From a very new band last time out (Howler) to a really old one; The Boomtown Rats, 70’s Irish pub rock imports turned skinny-tie New Wave chart botherers and No. 1 hit-makers with “Rat Trap” and their signature classic “I Don’t Like Mondays”. In my formative musical years I’d been a mini Rat-fan (I still remember hearing the drum-powered adrenaline rush of their debut “Looking After Number One” on the radio for the first time; one of my favourite photos of myself is as a 15 year old on holiday in Jersey, sporting a huge metallic “Rats” badge; and I still own their fine sophomore effort, “Tonic For The Troops” on vinyl), but in my post-punk rockist early 80’s discovery period I’d lost interest with the Rats long before their charismatic original vocalist Bob Geldof did the same, Bob instead concentrating on saving the world with "Live Aid". This reformed Rats line-up therefore was more an “Ex Simple Minds” formation, featuring two original band members, guitarist Garry Roberts and drummer Simon Crowe, but shorn of “Sir” Bob’s towering presence. But recent similar gigs (Thin Lizzy, Big Country, even the aforementioned Ex-Minds) had worked out well, plus it’s just up the MECA, and if nothing else, it’d be fun to hear those songs “live”, so why not?

However, when I arrived at the venue at 7 (½ hour before their advertised onstage time of 7.30 as support to a T Rex line-up) it felt I was the only one who thought that! Around 50 or so punters – mainly older couples – huddled around the back bar, and the main hall was still cordoned off! Yipe! Organiser Steve Causer’s going to take a bath on this one, I thought… The ropes came off about 7.30 and I wandered down the front as the place slowly filled up to a respectable level, for an early Swindon crowd…

The 4-piece Rats hit the dry-ice shrouded stage at 7.45, the thick-set monolith guitarist Roberts and beefy drummer Crowe augmented by a ratty-looking (appropriately enough) vertical-haired vocalist/bassist of similar vintage, ironically also called Bob (“we call him Little Bob,” Crowe informed us at one point) plus a young gun on extra guitar. Opener “Mary Of The Fourth Form” chuntered along well, but sounded a little like muddy old lag pub rock, and I thought at this point this gig might have gone down better at the Furnace! It took until 4th number, a sing-along-tastic “Someone’s Looking At You”, to really get this thus-far turgid set going for me, this being a tremendous version of one of their more overlooked numbers. “Most of our songs are about death, and this is no exception…” said Roberts before the tango beat of “Diamond Smiles”, followed by a fine mid-set double of “Number One” (which required drummer Crowe to catch his breath afterwards!) and the jerky, Wire-like “Like Clockwork”. A Dr. Feelgood homage revealed their pub rock roots, but was a murky bluesy rant, featuring a raspy lead vocal from Crowe, and I lamented the omission of the epic “(I Never Loved) Eva Braun” from the set at the expense of this. However they finished strongly, with a real crowd-pleasing final salvo of their angry, sprawling working class manifesto “Rat Trap”, their “Common People” of the late 70’s; the terrace chant punk pogo of “She’s So Modern”; and finally a “rock” version of “I Don’t Like Mondays”, which still stood up well shorn of the distinctive piano treatment, and finally got Swindon singing along, the resounding and elongated final hook echoing around the venue.

So, overall an uneven (as I expected) but worthwhile show, and yes, it was fun to hear those songs “live”! I grabbed a set-list, then hung out briefly afterwards, catching drummer Crowe as he briefly poked his head out from backstage to greet some friends, and getting him to sign said list. Then, with utterly no interest in “headliners” T Rex whatsoever, I headed home for one of the earliest home arrivals from an evening gig ever – 9.30!

1 comment:

  1. Love it that you just went for the support band! Quite a few of us enjoyed your observations.

    Meanwhile, some shameless self publicising