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Spirit of ‘77
(review n pix by phil newall)
Billed as ‘The Spirit of ’77 – not sure about that, but it certainly attracted a fair few punters who were certainly ’there or there about’ in 1977. Regular readers will know that I saw The Buzzcocks in Liverpool last December, and was suitably impressed, so was expecting much of the same tonight. It was with some trepidation that I considered 999; don’t get me wrong, back in 77/78 they were amongst the best, but to me anyway they seem to have become their very own karaoke, firmly rooted in the past with a dwindling audience to match. Which leaves us with Ari-Up, a true star, and I reckon the only one on the bill who actually works in the ‘Spirit of 77’ – I’m not going to debate the beliefs and ideas of punk, 77 etc, that was best done by Jon Savage in ‘England’s Dreaming’ but to me it was about change, about new ideas, new opportunities, and Ari-Up is the only one here who has embraced these views, the result being an artist who is still at the cutting edge and still challenges her audience. But enough of this waffle you want to know who was good, and who was shite..
The Middleton Civic Centre; odd choice of venue, hardly the heartland of, well anything, certainly not raging punk rock. Having made the trip up in the car, I met up with the usual suspects. The sell out crowd was a mixture of elders, who had moved on, and those who ain’t, plus a healthy smattering of those born a long time after ’77.
999 were first up, and due to a problem with the entry system played to a small but receptive crowd, not helped by having to come on at 20.00hrs. Nick Cash is the only remaining member of the original line-up which now has Arthur from The Lurkers on lead. Now time can be a cruel master, and Cash is an example of such, but despite his aged appearance he can certainly still put on a show. All the best known numbers ‘Emergency’, ‘Nasty Nasty’, ‘Homicide’ were belted out along with a few too many mentions of ‘good old ’76. Anecdotal tributes to Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone were heartfelt and sincere, and as the set progressed they got better and better. Cash still retains power in his voice, and delivers the lines with clarity, as opposed to the rantings of many of the other ’77 originals. Not sure if 999 have any new material, none was introduced as such, but on this performance of well known ‘classic’s I was impressed. Credit to them, appearing at the time they did was a tough job, but they certainly managed to prepare the crowd for the rest of the evening.
And then came Ari-Up, The Punky reggae Queen; for me the highlight of the night. She stepped onto the stage looking like a scrawny psychedelic urchin with hair styled by Cinderella on acid. Her band The True Warriors were rather more elegantly attired in a Japanese styled suit get up. Within moments it was apparent that Ari-Up does not perform, she actually lives her life in the manner portrayed on the stage. Not surprisingly, and based on her musical pedigree, and her adopted Jamaican homeland all her songs are heavily reggae tinged, and not that far removed from those Slit’s numbers. New stuff ‘I’m Allergic’, from the forthcoming album, sits comfortably alongside ‘New Town’, ‘Shoplifting’ and ‘Instant Hit’ dedicated to the late Sid Vicious. A few unsuspecting members of the audience were dragged onto stage to skank along, but the look of utter bewilderment having met Ari-Up was worth the entry alone. References were made to ’76 which she described as a revolution, and in her case I think she was right – The Slits were truly original, innovators whose music even now sounds ahead of the pace. We were treated to ‘Typical Girls’ performed by a women the very antithesis of such; Ari-Up still challenges your senses, proven perhaps by the moronic few chanting abuse.
And so onto The Buzzcocks who by the time they took to the stage were met by a healthy sized crowd, certainly greater in number than the previous Liverpool gig. Am I the only one to have noticed this, a Manchester crowd always seem more receptive, more vocal, certainly more so than the apathy that greets many a band as they step out in Liverpool, either way The Buzzcocks responded similarly and as is the norm, without introduction launched into a set featuring most of the hits ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, ‘Harmony In my Head’ etc and the edgier ‘Noise Annoys’, ‘Boredom’. Couple of numbers from the current album the single ‘Sick City Sometimes’ to bring us up too date. The band themselves seemed to be enjoying the gig, Diggle still doing his rock God posturing – its not going to stop, I will have to learn to live with it. A very responsive crowd pogoed and sang along to every number, the only failing being the vocal level, which is really down to the engineer and not the band so I won't hark on. A 30 initial minute set and then a lengthy encore, tonight The Buzzcocks were on form, and deserving of the credit they have received over the years.
Only thing missing from all this are the usual pictures, I fucked up and left the camera in the car, however I did get one poor phone picture – me and new mate John Robb – Goldblade who I met after the show, a true gent, and who is supporting Stiff Little Fingers in Liverpool 21st March 2005. Blatant plug, but so what; he’s got a new album out now ‘Rebel Songs’ on Captain Oi – buy it, see him at SLF next week.
All in all a cracking night, one good band, one absolute genius, and The Buzzcocks at their best.
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