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Academy 2, Liverpool 08.12.04

(review 'n' pix by phil newall)

Had been looking forward to this one for a while, sort of kick started the X-mas marathon, and was certainly more appealing than gagging on endless mince pies with the in-laws!!

A barren Academy 2 greeted the first of the supports bands; The Rakes, who have been picking up a lot of good comment in recent months. Perhaps it was the early start, more likely the crucial Liverpool match being played out just minutes up the road, but they did deserve a bigger audience than they got. They last played Liverpool in September 04 and on tonight's performance missing that was an error. The band are a four piece who sounded a bit like early Joy Division in their Warsaw guise, and even had a similar look about them. Current single 'Strasbourg' (City Rockers Records) was a highlight, along with 'We Are The Animals', the piss poor joke about Liverpool males to introduce 'Violent' was on reflection best heard by the small crowd. All in all a good solid performance from a band certainly worth seeing again.

I was always a bit dubious about Neville Staples as a support act for on a bill of essentially punk/new wave bands, now I know there has always been a punk-ska mix but it never really hit the right buttons for me. However, due to his previous credentials (Special AKA etc) I was prepared to give him an audience. I wasn't the only one to either as the Academy finally produced a decent sized crowd. Having seen him I wished I'd tuned in much earlier!; this tour is to promote his 'Rudeboy Returns' album and that really tells you where Neville is coming from. He fronts a six piece ska band who belt out numbers like 'Too Hot' and 'Little Bitch', leaving Neville to work the crowd strutting his rudeboy skank. He credited his time with the Specials and then dipped into the past producing 'Gangsters', and 'Message To You Rudy'. Neville has certainly aged well with the passing of time, if anything his voice has taken on a real gravel sounding timbre that was only spoilt by the sound in the second half taking on a nagging boom. This was a cracking set that dispelled my previous feelings about the punk/ska mix, like the Rakes if you get the chance go and see Neville - you can only be impressed.

And onto The Buzzcocks - as we all know they have been around since 1976 having been directly inspired by The Sex Pistols, whose energy they copied and to that they added the song writing ability that ultimately resulted in seven Top 40 hits and a number of classic songs of the era. I, as an old git recall them from way back when 'Spiral Scratch' and 'Orgasm Addict' were first released - and other than both our greying locks nothing much has changed. Like The Undertones (review last month), Shelly and Co are more than competent and are well capable of putting on a fine performance, and despite their years they have a slew of new material to offer. Having signed to Cherry Red last year we were offered the eponymous named 'Buzzcocks' and now with this; the 'Secret Public' tour was the chance to see if they can still cut it on the live circuit.

Opening number 'Autonomy' really set the pace, and it didn't really stop from then on in; an onslaught of three minute pop wonders' 'Oh Shit', 'I Don't Mind', and a couple of newer numbers including 'Keep On' and 'Sick City Sometimes'. Shelly (looking even more like Bilbo Baggins) barely pausing for breath, whilst Diggle continued with his now traditional 'rock God guitar hero' posturing. All the big hits, and classics where here, 'Noise Annoys', 'Ever Fallen In Love' etc belted out a frantic pace, and after 45 minutes that was it. After fairly lengthy applause we were given an encore culminating with 'Orgasm Addict' and a guitar trashing from Steve Diggle - an awesome display of how it should be done, were it works for the Buzzcocks and not for others is that their songs are are not hampered with excess, they are trimmed of flab and delivered with the pace of a 100mtr sprint. The Buzzcocks have such a huge back catalogue that it must be a chore picking a set list, but on tonight's performance they have a long time ago mastered that neat like trick.

Another good night, two classic acts that remain vital and with something to offer, and a newer band with real signs of promises. Oh, and if you are interested, the red half of the city celebrated also! Next up; The Bunnymen's sold out X-Mas special and the 'other team' on Merseyside's imminent promotion to the Championship..

Phil Newall

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