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DEAD MEN WALKING

 

Liverpool Academy 01.10.04

(reviewed by Steve Allan Jones and Phil Newall)

 

When it comes to finding my way around Liverpool, my recent expeditions suggest I am less than useless. It seems that, whatever the City Council has done to the road system, has confused the majority of road users. I finally manage to find the designated carpark thanks to a uniformed University official and proceed in the indicated direction. 15 minutes later, I am the leader of a fearless band of 8 gig-goers trying to discover the Academy 3 entrance as if it were some lost civilisastion in the South America. No posters, no sign over the door - just one guy and a cash register greet our journey's end. I am an old fashioned cove - surely some indication of where the bloody gig is would encourage more punters to actually turn out!

The Academy 3 is similar in size to Bar Blu's performance space although slightly larger and square. I reckon about 150 punters are in attendance for the Liverpool leg of Dead Men Walking's Autumn tour. A quick straw poll indicates the usual mid 30's average age and a healthy mix of haircuts.

 

Now, firstly, as some of you may know, I am slightly biased when it comes to this band. It's basically a super group made up of Mike Peters (The Alarm), Kirk Brandon (Spear of Destiny), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Bruce Watson (Big Country) and Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats). In my capacity as keyboard player, I have spent a lot of time in Mike and Kirk's company so it is really interesting to be able to watch these two frontmen performing from the other side of the stage.

Set 1 kicks off with 68 Guns.. it's loud and proud and bonafide hit number 1 in the set list. With a few jokey asides, the set sprints through a back catalogue of tunes from the various members history. I am particularly gratified to hear Burning Sounds and Ghosts of Princes in Towers - two songs from Glen's band Rich Kids (Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Steve New and Glen I seem to remember). The band sound good although at times, the whole thing doesnt quite gell - with a days rehearsal, I suppose that is inevitable. Mike, Kirk and to a lesser extent Glen take it in turns to sing lead. Mike covers most of the Stray Cats/Big Country vocals admirably and I can hear a big improvement in his singing over the last couple of years. Kirk, on the other hand has such an incredible tone to his voice and, together, they pull off a show stopping version of Kirk's Pumpkin Man. Slim Jim's standup drumming is a wonder... he is a charismatic figure onstage and fully deserves to be up there at the front. Glen holds down the bass and sings lead for all Rich Kids/Pistols tunes as well as his own newer material. This set ends with Chance - an old Big Country hit - Bruce's trademark guitar intro signals a mass crowd singalong. Now, I love this song... this rendition is quite rocky and loses a little in dynamic. Still it rouses the crowd who now have a short wait for set 2.

 

The hits keep coming - Rock This Town (Stray Cats), God Save The Queen (Pistols) -to name but two. Hits, ladies and gentlemen, from an era when you had to sell records to get in the charts. When the song and the attitude was more important than the dance routine. Hits actually written by the people performing them live to an audience. Playing instruments and singing at the same time. Rant over...for now.

45 RPM was a hit for Mike earlier this year. For all newcomers to the story of how this song became a hit, you may find this info on Mike's website. However, I can assure you all that, it would seem that this song may have a life past it's all too brief stay in the charts....I can say no more ...........

Now Westworld is probably Kirk's most well known tune. Tonight, for a short moment, Kirk justifies the entrance fee alone. During the long repeated end section, Kirk begins to play lead guitar. It is a strange sort of solo, but it has a power which transfers to the audience. Kirk has a way of working himself up into an almost trance-like state...where he goes, no-one knows but it's electric to watch. Bar Blu shoegazers take note. After the song, Kirk shakes himself, like a dog coming in out of the rain.Touched by madness and greatness equally, he is some performer and I am proud to be his friend.

The set motors on towards a hit filled climax of In A Big Country and Runaway Boys. One encore - Pretty Vacant I think... and they are gone. Mike, his lovely wife Jools and baby Dylan away quickly for a short drive back to Wales. I mooch about helping celebrity roadie Craig with some gear. Craig plays in Mike's band and, with his other hat on, has written a few hits himself with The Mission. Oh, and he was in The Cult... and The Sisters of Mercy. Even the crew have a pedigree of chart songwriting! I manage to have a quick chat to Kirk, and, as usual we have too much to talk about and decide to nip back to the band hotel for a nightcap.

Sadly, this doesn't materialise due to THE MOATHOUSE HOTEL in Liverpool and their policy of only allowing residents access to their bar after 11pm. Now I have stayed or been a guest of a resident at many hotels around the world through the years. This is the first time I have come across such a rule and, to be quite honest,I t sucks. So, the MOATHOUSE in LIverpool will be getting no business from any project I have any say in... it's a small protest but an important one. You see, it's rock and roll history. After the gig, back to the hotel for drinks with band, family and friends. Winding down... questions answered... new songs formulated... it is all part of how these five guys have made a living over the last 3 decades.

You see, I want my Muse and my Slipknot. I also want my Keane and my Scissor Sisters. God help me I want my Girls Aloud and my Robbie Williiams. I also want my Mike Peters, my Glen Matlock or my Kirk Brandon to get their new songs heard too. Except the door is closed. Mike pushed it slightly ajar earlier in the year but its soon slammed shut again. This is the UK in 2004... doors closing in band's faces. It has always been a difficult business but us Brits as a nation seem only too ready to discard a band as "old hat". New bands get one album if they are lucky to prove themselves. 9 months later after sales arent "going in the right direction" its back to obscurity. Call me idealist but I dont care if the song I am listening to is performed by a pensioner or a teenager.

So the Dead Men Walking tour rumbles around the UK for a few weeks more. They are even doing a few dates in Italy. Go see them. Listen to more hits in one set than most bands achieve in a lifetime. Marvel as they sing and play live, at their persistence. They all want to keep writing and gigging til they drop which means cold rainy nights in little clubs, miles of travelling, humping gear up stairs...

 

Epilogue

 

I am driving home. My DMW friends are in a hotel bar talking about the night's events. 150 punters are on the bus talking about the songs they havent heard live for twenty years - until tonight. I switch on the radio..."and here's a song from the 1980's by The Lotuseaters" says the DJ..... My friend Peter Coyle's lovely voice begins to sing "First Picture OF You" Peter is still making wonderful new music but all you hear at home is this, admittedly, tremendous song from twenty years ago.

I drive along the A55 - all I can hear is the door being bolted and the keys being turned...........................

 

Set List (from memory)

 

68 Guns

Rumble In Brighton

Burning Sounds

Fragile Thing

Ressurection

The Drunk And The Disorderly

Ghosts Of Princes In Towers

Pumpkin Man

Whose Side You On?

I Can See

Chance

 

Rock This Town

God Save The Queen

Rainmaker

Rescue Me

On Something

Stray Cat Strut

45rpm

Westworld

In A Big Country

Runaway Boys

Pretty Vacant

(steve allan jones)

 

Phil Newall sees it from another direction

Not sure about SJW's problems finding the location - the venue has changed names but not location, we were dissapointed in the venue - little more than a storeroom, an insult to the band, though the sparse crowd did seem to justify it.. why dont DMW advertise more - loads of people I speak to would go if they knew who they were and when they were playing.

Big complaint was the cost - 17 is outragous, especially to see what in my opinion is becoming a parody of a covers band who do covers of there own material..

Granted they have had over a dozen Top 10's between then plus over a dozen further Top 30 hits and all are fine musicians, but to go and see them on each tour is similar to viewing your mates band in the local pub - DMW arnt going anywhere, but I'm not sure they want to.

Dont be mistaken we all had a great night, the gig was good, and I believe Brandon in particular is a true star with a voice sent from above, Matlock however just rubs irritates - he wrote a couple of good tunes in the Pistols which were made vital by Lydon, since then its all chug along pub rock numbers. Slim Jim is a legend who just oozes rock n' roll and always deserves a bigger reception than Liverpool offered them.

To sum up - if you liked them in their previous guises - go see them; they churn out endless generation defining numbers, all well worthy of a listen, and to agree with SJW Brandon is worth the entrance alone; however if you have seem DMW before there is not a lot new to see, and on this occasion they didnt do the usual interval meet and greet - it was just a chance to by some product, nowt wrong with that but even that was old stuff repackaged including Matlocks book which I have just had the dubious pleasure of thumbing through - don't bother. Maybe its all tainted by my downer on Matlock; but have you heard his solo albums??

Phil Newall

 

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