Tuesday, 29 October 2013

892 THE BOOMTOWN RATS, Patrik Fitzgerald, Bristol O2 Academy, Monday 28 October 2013

After an exemplary performance from a 70’s punk/ New Wave predominantly singles-oriented band last time out in SpizzEnergi, here’s another one! This time it’s the Boomtown Rats again, and also for the first time… I’d seen and thoroughly enjoyed a performance by a 4-piece trading under that name but featuring only 2 of the original Rats (namely guitarist Garry Roberts and drummer Simon Crowe), at Swindon’s MECA a couple of years back (gig 839) but this time those two have been joined by original bassist Pete Briquette and, more importantly, frontman Bob Geldof, in a fuller and more tantalising Rats reunion. So I’m there!

So, I headed off down the M4 – thankfully not too badly affected by the aftermath of the Saint Jude’s day storm – parking on the roof of Trenchard car park and wandering down about 8 pm. It was quiet outside, which I took as a cue that this wouldn’t be a busy one – wrong-o, as everyone was already in, and the place was rammed! Patrik Fitzgerald, a tousle-haired Irish punk rock troubadour of similar vintage to the headliners, was onstage playing some acoustic stuff and nonsense, coming across like Billy Bragg’s older and more bored Irish cousin, with titles like “There’s Nothing To Do” and “Inside Me There’s Nothing”, and as dour a delivery as the subject matter. A final number suggesting who’d start the next revolution was an odd juxtaposition, given the air of ennui and resignation exuded by this performance. Sorry Patrik. Yawn.

Weedled my way through the packed crowd of old punk lags and their lasses, down to something equating to my usual stage-left spot, for the Rats’ arrival prompt at 9. Preceded by a backdrop film featuring the Rats then-and-now, the band back rows ambled onstage through the copious dry ice. Then suddenly Bob was there – bursting rapier-like through the murk, grabbing the mic and kicking off the opening harmonies of set opener, the sublime, sprawling epic “(I Never Loved) Eva Braun”. Still rock-star thin, imposing grey mane in place and looking every day of his (only?) 62 years, he nevertheless was the focal point of the Rat attack throughout. Initially lurching languidly around, as the band took their time to settle in, it took a superb “Someone’s Looking At You” for his performance to morph into a confident Jagger-esque strut and swagger, an excellent rendition of this underrated number being preceded by an audience call-and-response about his, “fuck-off mega plastic snakeskin suit,” which led into a story of said suit’s pivotal role in this Rats reunion, and then into an impassioned and topical diatribe against Big Brother-ism. Man has a lot to say…

The languid cod-reggae of a better than feared “Banana Republic” was preceded by the voluble Geldof commenting about how this song got them banned from their own Country for its’ pointed attack (“one disadvantage of growing old is that you’re often proven right”), before an explosive “She’s So Modern” cranked up the punk rock electric guitar. A brilliant, singalong and thankfully piano-led “I Don’t Like Mondays” was a subsequent set highlight, also featuring a mid-song pregnant pause before the soaring and affecting climax, Geldof conducting the crowd with relish.

A frantic “Looking After Number One” preceded set closer, the inevitable “Rat Trap”, their sprawling epic depicting the struggles of the common man, and another set highlight. Bob had earlier preceded their jerky “Neon Heart” with, “we’re thinking about Lou Reed tonight – this is from when we were trying to be the Velvet Underground back in 1976,” so it was also a nice touch that they kicked off their encores with a messy, uneven but heartfelt version of Lou’s garage rock classic “White Light/ White Heat”, Bob again giving an impassioned speech about the former Velvets leader and pivotal rock’n’roll figure, lost to us over the weekend.

A lengthy “Diamond Smiles” closed the encore, at which point the band took a prolonged curtain call, before returning for an odd techno chant of “Boomtown Rats!”, the boys clearly having fun with this rather puzzling final number. Nevertheless, this was once again a totally entertaining show from The Rats, Bob Geldof providing the star quality with a riveting and energetic performance belying his years. And on this evidence, long may the Rats rally!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

891 SPIZZENERGI, Stella, Bristol Fleece, Saturday 19 October 2013

Halloween 1979; I was a 14 year old pseudo punk rock kid, off to a nightclub for the first time, namely Swindon ’s legendary Under-18 “Nappy Night” at the Brunel night spot! It’s no exaggeration to call that evening a musical epiphany for me, as I heard a whole raft of wonderful punk and post-punk bands and songs for the first time that night, leaving the club with a metaphorical record shopping list as long as my arm. And right at the top of that list was “Where’s Captain Kirk?”, a slab of scattergun sci-fi mutant punk by SpizzEnergi, who sounded less like a band, more of an Eastern European industrial complex. A superb singles band whose quirky cartoon punch never worked as well over a full-length, I never saw them first time around, but here in 2013 they’re another band scratching that reunion itch. So why not?

So, this vintage punk rocker was joined by another couple of vintage punk rockers, Deb and (eventually) L8Z, to see these vintage punk rockers (hmm, seeing a pattern develop here…), rocking down the M4 this early Saturday evening and parking up just before the venue doors opened, then popping into the pub next door for some entertaining chat about those Nappy Night days. Hit the sparsely attended venue about 8.15, in time to catch support Sheena. Not a girly punk rocker as we’d previously joked, this was a group of four painfully young looking kids straight out of 6th form (or maybe not even there yet…), who actually peddled some organ-fuelled 60’s mod/ psych numbers with darker, almost Joy Division-ish undertones, apart from a startling drum-dominated third number which recalled The Birthday Party! Some impressive diversity and driving rock from such a seriously young bunch, a name to watch methinks…

Took a wander down the front for the entrance of Spizz, in front of a 2/3rds full Fleece crowd comprised of old punkers and devotees. The band took the stage to a backing track of Star Trek (Original Series, of course) voiceovers and sound effects, kicking into the growling guitar opener “6,000 Crazy”. Then Spizz appeared… Dressed in black with glowing logos splattered liberally about his form, sporting crazy green goggles giving off strobe lights and with 2 LCD displays on belts low-slung under an impressive paunch, the peroxide pantomime punker Spizz cut a dramatic, eye-catching figure as “6,000 Crazy” morphed into the speedy terrace chant punk of “Mega City 3”, before welcoming us to the “fucking brilliant” show, and introducing the fuzzed-out soaring powerpop gem that is the overlooked “No Room”. And we’re off…

Thence followed a supremely entertaining, ridiculously and riotously fun hour’s sci-fi punk rock nostalgia. Thankfully concentrating on that clutch of classic singles (A and B sides!) rather than the more drawn-out albums material, Spizz, effusive and entertaining throughout, all high energy, dramatic gestures and wide stance, led his band through a kinetic, riveting set with his unique, high-pitched nasal vocals, and the verve of a man half his age. “Soldier Soldier”, kicking off with the “Star Spangled Banner” and featuring some militaristic drumbeats, was an early highlight; the “very moving love song!” of “Spock’s Missing”, alternating between the swish of the Spanish guitar verse and the thrash punk chorus, was a thrilling mid-set highlight, and the thrash through Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain” referenced Debbie Harry and Bristol’s own Beki Bondage in a couple of false endings. But the set was all building up to one thing…

Spizz schooled the crowd in the correct call-and-response to “Clocks Are Big” (“Machines Are Heavy!”), then the unannounced bass intro heralded “Where’s Captain Kirk?”, a thrillingly committed version of this all-time sci-fi classic, Spizz and his equally ridiculously kinetic and photogenic guitarist Phil Ross giving it loads onstage, and the crowd joining in as much as their creaking knees would allow (or am I just speaking for myself?). A couple of well chosen covers to finish; Kraftwerk’s “The Model” and a Clash-faithful but riotously singalong “I Fought The Law” closed out probably the most fun set of punk entertainment I’ve seen since The Dickies.

Picked up a couple of setlists afterwards – props to the band for signing them all beforehand! – then had pix with the man afterwards (he’d previously announced that he was going to be hanging out afterwards to say hi, and true to his word marched offstage at the end of his set and straight over to the merch stand – props for that too!) before hitting the road. Waaaaay better than I’d expected, this was a wonderful evening’s entertainment from another vintage punker who, like Adam Ant and Peter Murphy earlier this year, proved tonight time doesn’t diminish the star quality of a born performer. Spizz, I salute you!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

890 GLASVEGAS, The Shiverin’ Sheiks, Bristol Fleece, Monday 30 September 2013

Well, if a couple of years ago you said to me that Glasvegas would still be playing in such small venues as The Fleece in 2013, I’d have called you out for the ignorant musical buffoon I surely would have pegged you as. Glasvegas in the late noughties were the band for whom all things were possible, riding on a tide of hope and music press hype, having delivered a brilliant debut album, arriving fully formed as a distillation of everything cool in rock’n’roll through the ages, and featuring a real candidate for Spokesperson For A Generation in James Allen. Wow, how things changed, and in a hurry… their sophomore effort, “Euphoric/ Heartbreak” whilst flawed but still generally damn fine to my ears, was universally panned as an overblown, overwrought and over-reaching exercise in epic stadium rock, and knocked them back to practically square one. As for Spokesperson For A Generation, that mantle seems to have passed on to Frank Turner, with Allen generally – and unfairly – regarded by the press as a white-clad embarrassment. So, in surprisingly reduced circumstances, it may well be make or break time for this once ridiculously promising band. Glasvegas, what have you to offer us in 2013?

Rach and I made this our Anniversary outing (one day shy of our 8th), leaving the kids with grandma and parking up at 8 after a good run. Wandered into the piss-poorly attended venue, early doors, just as support The Shiverin’ Sheiks came on. They were a traditional rockabilly 4-piece apparently spotted by Glasvegans James Allan and Jonna Lofgren while out for a drink, all in matching 50’s suits and featuring a big ol’ double bass! The moustachioed vocalist announced one number with, “this next one will cheer you all up a bit – it’s about how we’re all going to hell!” and their best number, “Sheik of Arrow B” had me reaching both for the metaphorical Arabian headdress, followed by some intricate hula melodies from the impressive guitarist. Their set closer turned into an adjective-fest; “we’ve been for your listening pleasure, the quivering, quaking, defenestrating (!), Shiverin’ Sheiks!” A somewhat different, whole lot of fun opening set, which Rach, with her Buddy Holly hat on, loved.

The place filled up to a more respectable level, but Rach and I took an easy spot right down the front, stage left. Allan, back in black (hooray!), led the band onstage to a swathe of billowing dry ice and discordant background noise, opening with the moody, atmospheric “Later…”, the title track from the new, insidiously growing, CD, his fractured, heavily Scots accented vocals and upright drummer Jonna’s steamhammer pounding already a feature. A menacing “Youngblood” followed, all seething drama and power and a quantum leap over the recorded version, and we knew we were in for something very special.

“Thanks everybody for coming to see the band,” a humble Allan said before the stark, late night betrayal drama of “Cheating Heart”. Allan was so wrapped up in his portrayal that he knocked the mikestand into the front rows, but acknowledged this during the lyric then apologised to the girl it landed on, handing her one of his beers. Stylish. “Euphoria Take My Hand” was simply stunning, a soaring widescreen epic, making fools of anyone who thought otherwise. A chant of “One James Allan!” subsequently started up, to which Allan replied, “thank fuck!”

This was a real performance of precision, passion and power from a band on top of their game. Allan, certainly not the greatest singer in the world but a supreme master of emotional projection, poured heart and soul into his performance, and was personable, voluble and utterly riveting throughout. “The World Is Yours” was magnificent, an understated opening leading to a massive noise-fest crescendo, and not the first (or last) spine-tingling moment of the night. “All I Want Is my Baby” was yearning, powerful and plaintive, with Allan stretching his voice way beyond its comfort zone, before he diffused the mood afterwards by chatting with the merch man, (“I don’t normally see you; how you doin’ man?”) and, clearly loving what he does, declaring this, “the best job in the world”.

The Jesus And Mary Chain stomp of “Geraldine” solicited a mass singalong, but “official” set closer “Go Square Go” surpassed that, the band downing instruments to conduct the audience in the “here we fuckin’ go!” terrace chant refrain. Allan stayed onstage then, delivering a bare, poignant and harrowing “Flowers And Football Tops” on a solo acoustic. Allen then referred to his tuning up and gathering his thoughts as a, “tumbleweed moment,” before delivering tonight’s highlight, a magnificent, heart-tugging “Daddy’s Gone”, their epic paean to absent fatherhood, with the refrain once again being sung back by the audience while Allan looked on, impressed. A final “Lots, Sometimes”, again building to a crescendo of white noise and drama, ended a quite, quite brilliant set, Allan leaving to handshakes from the front rows (myself included). Wow. Simply… wow.

We gathered our thoughts (and a set-list) before heading off, reflecting on this performance and Glasvegas’ place in the world. For me, they’ve captured lightning in a bottle, and are currently the act who, “live”, transcend their recorded work more so than anyone else. Relaxed and with pressures and expectations lifted from their shoulders, they utterly killed it tonight, delivering a set as potent, strident, powerful and emotive as any set I’ve seen this year. And to anyone who’ve abandoned and/or dismissed them; people, you seriously don’t know what you’re missing.