Friday, April 01, 2011

Do you feel lucky, punk?

I spend a fair bit of time in these hallowed pages musing on the subject of punk rock, and rightly so in my not-so-humble opinion. Whilst it would be churlish to suggest that early-to-mid '70's rock music had nothing to recommend about it there can surely be no doubt that it needed shaking out of it's complacency by a music and an attitude more reminiscent of the early days of rock 'n' roll rebellion than by that shown by bands wearing capes and singing about goblins. I've been lucky enough to see two shows this week - one featuring one of the foremost figures of the British punk scene and the other from a band without whom that scene might never have existed - that have reminded me just how much that music, and indeed that attitude, can still mean to me...

Tuesday it was time for T.V. Smith's 'Best Of The Adverts' tour to come to London - to be precise, The Underworld in Camden Town. Backing him on these dates are Italian punk heroes The Valentines, and judging by this performance they're doing an absolutely brilliant job - but more about them in a minute. As we (myself and Dave from Balcony Shirts) walked through from the bar into the venue Condition Dead were roaring through their set - well, most of them were, as one of the guitarist's guitar strap came off his instrument just as the song started. Get some strap locks young man! They sounded ok if a bit 'identikit punk' to my old ears, although to someone hearing this type of music for the first time they probably sounded wonderful. The Hi-Fi Spitfires were up next, with a set that won over most the people who had bothered to come through from the bar. They reminded me of Stiff Little Fingers which is no bad thing in my world - and let's face it, any band that finishes their set with a rendition of 'I Got A Right' by Iggy And The Stooges have to have something going for them haven't they? Worth keeping an eye on for the future methinks.
Opening with 'No Time To Be 21' and Safety In Numbers' T.V. Smith and the Valentines were clearly in no mood for anything other than getting on with the job in hand. Adverts songs are tricky to play (trust me, I should know! Which reminds me, I'm playing with T.V. at The 100 Club on Saturday 16th April, which I'm sure I'll mention again between now and then!) but the band handled them brilliantly, and it was wonderful to see T.V. fronting a band again. They featured all the songs from the first album, quite a few from the second, and in doing so they reminded everyone just what a criminally underrated band The Adverts remain. The last encore of 'Lord's Prayer' and 'Good Times Are Back' bought everything up to date, and when the lights came up more than a few people looked almost shell shocked by what they'd seen. And rightly so, as they'd seen a fine show by a great band fronted by one of the best songwriters of all time. It doesn't get much better than that does it?

Or maybe it does, as last night I saw The New York Dolls. Rather like The Sex Pistols any number of words have been written about The Dolls, many to their detriment and often along the lines of 'they can't play'. And, rather like the stuff that gets written about The Pistols alleged lack of ability. it's all absolute rubbish. Of course it is. Somewhere in the last 30-odd years The Dolls have been somewhat re-evaluated, and their influence and importance in the grand scheme of things has been acknowledged - these days surviving original members David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain lead a band whose current line-up features the mighty Earl Slick on guitar, and if last night's performance is anything to go then the best from the band may be yet to come. That said the venue didn't do them any favours - The Old Vic Tunnels is an extraordinary labyrinth of (you've guessed it!) tunnels which provided a clammy, dank atmosphere that no doubt reduced anybody unfortunate enough to suffer from asthma or a similar respiratory complaint to a pile of clothes on the floor. It also contributed to a muddy, indistinct sound mix that rendered the opening number 'Looking For A Kiss' almost unrecognisable. Fortunately by the time they'd got to 'Cause I Sez So' the sound had improved sufficiently for it to be obvious that the band were playing brilliantly, and that we were all present at a classic gig. An almost casual rampage through 'Who Are The Mystery Girls?' stood out in the middle of the set among songs from their latest album 'Dancing Backwards In High Heels' ('Funky But Chic' and 'I'm So Fabulous' from said album were also real highlights, showing that they're certainly not finished as songwriters) and the set ended with 'Jet Boy' re-confirming it's status as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs of all time. They encored with a careering, chaotic 'Personality Crisis' before 'End Of The Summer' finished a unforgettable show. Two fabulous, inspirational performances - like I say, it doesn't get much better than that. Now, where did I put that guitar..?

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