Sunday, 22 November 2015

Buzzcocks - The Roadmender, Northampton, 21st November 2015

Sometimes it is a good idea to leave the serious stuff behind, cease being over-analytical, and simply let your hair down - purely metaphorically in my case, you understand - and have a good time. Such was my approach to an evening of arthritic rug-cutting at Northampton's primary scuzzy music venue last night. Well if truth be told The Roadmender is, and has been since the mid 1980s, Shoesville's only dedicated music venue outside of the pub circuit, a sad state of affairs for the third biggest town by population in the country.

Anyway, after a curry and later a pint of sublime ale by the name of Release The Chimps, me and my mate enter the hallowed dimly lit halls of said venue, to find it packed to its 300ish capacity. I was expecting the audience to be entirely populated by fifty-somethings putting out collective backs attempting to pogo, but thankfully I was wrong, as the crowd was a nice mix of ages right down to teens, who seemed to know all the hits. The sight of an otherwise unremarkably attired fellow fifty-something bloke wearing a shiny new dog collar did make me smile, though!

At 9pm Buzzcocks saunter on to the stage to a rowdy reception. The only original members of the poptastic punk foursome present are Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle. Considering they are the same age, with a mere 20 days separating their 1955 birth dates, two more different approaches to stagecraft you could not begin to imagine. Steve Diggle is permanently "Sixteen Again", consumed by a frightening level of energy, and obviously loves every second in the limelight as he bounces around the stage like an over-enthusiastic puppy making rock god moves and posing with his guitar, but in a purely joyous rather than studied fashion. Meanwhile looking across at his compadre stands the diminutive grey-bearded figure of Pete Shelley, every inch the kindly but world-weary retired social worker, who gives the impression of being Steve's benevolent but slightly exasperated uncle, putting up with his "nephew's" capers with a "here he goes again" expression on his careworn fizzog.

Buzzcocks have cemented their place in pop history for a succession of short sweet blasts of perfect pop punk, nine singles released between November 1977 and September 1979 that chronicled teenage angst and frustration better than any other band of their generation. All but one were penned by Shelley, whose sharp wit and wordplay married to the band's razor-sharp punky pop sensibilites made for singles that only the cloth-eared could fail to appreciate, punk fans or nay. As a result this gig despite obstensibly promoting Buzzcock's ninth studio album The Way was for the majority of audience, me included, an unashamed nostalgia fest.

Opening with the punk manifesto that is Boredom, released in January 1977 back when Howard Devoto was still in the band was a smart move. The cynical indifference of Devoto's lyric fits as a perfect counter to the energetic charge of the tune, and we're off, on a night of relentless and FUCKING LOUD punky rebel rousing. The guy behind the mixing desk seemed to find 11 with each slider almost from the first note, and left them there. This gave Diggle's nasal bark, thankfully only featured as lead vocal on a handful of songs a literally teeth-rattling quality, if "quality" is the right word. Painful it certainly was!

After that storming start, a shaky part of the set, starting with a ramshackle and a shall we say "rhythmically challenged" Automony was eventually corrected by a cracking Whatever Happened To?, and normal service was resumed. One of the songs from current album The Way sounded like Green Day, which when you think about it is doubly ironic!

Steve Diggle also gets to showcase his plank spanking abilities with a no doubt brief but in the context of the night, a seemingly long feedback drenched two note solo, possibly during Nothing Left, displaying the punk ethos that anyone can get up there and do it, to the nth degree. What he sorely lacks in technical ability he more than makes up for with over the top boyish enthusiasm, utterly at odds with his 60-year old frame. I'll bet he ached this morning!

Played in succession it becomes apparent how many of those great singles had singalong football terrace "whoa-ohs" in the choruses, which made for a great live atmosphere, and plenty of hoarse voices on the way home, no doubt. The encore ended with the last Devoto penned lyric, the acerbic wanking anthem Orgasm Addict, as far as I am aware one of only two hits in the history of the UK charts dedicated to the onanistic arts. The audience left...err...sated.

Set list:
Fast Cars
I Don't Mind
Fiction Romance
People Are Strange Machines
What Ever Happened To?
Why She's the Girl From the Chainstore
Sick City Sometimes
Moving Away From the Pulsebeat
Nothing Left
Noise Annoys
In the Back
It's Not You
You Say You Don't Love Me
Love You More
What Do I Get?

Harmony In My Head
Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)
Orgasm Addict

Buzzcocks are:
Pete Shelley - Vocals, guitar
Steve Diggle - Guitar, vocals
Chris Remmington - Bass guitar
Danny Farrant - Drums

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