Sunday 1 February 2009

Buzzcocks at Shepherds Bush Empire - 30 January 2009

The shock of the old. Buzzcocks by Ian Rook

It’s not from want of trying that I haven’t posted for a bit. Since I last reported, I have been to two gigs that featured up-and-coming bands and on both occasions the acts that I saw were so awful that it is unfair to come on here and ridicule them.

So from the new to the very …mature.

I troop along to Shepherds Bush to see Buzzcocks run through their first two albums in their entirety.

I’m not really a fan of this modern trend of bands playing their ‘classic’ albums in full. I think that the practice robs a concert of the spontaneity that it should have, and it is also the case that a record does not necessarily follow the best format for a live show. Albums tend to be front loaded whereas a gig should build to a climax.

However, when Buzzcocks appear in a flash of light and start up the riff from ‘Fast Cars’, the first track on their ‘Another Music in a Different Kitchen’ debut, such misgivings are forgotten. What a stonking record this is!

Front man Pete Shelley still has his uniquely clear, high voice. He is all smiles, even though age has left him looking like a very surprised Ronnie Corbett. To his right stands the only other original member of the band, the irrepressible Steve Diggle, a man who looks like he has come onstage via fourteen pubs and a hedge backwards.

Buzzcocks have always been feted for their way with a pop song, but the first album in particular shows that they had/have a real machine-tooled crunch to their music. I have never heard any other band replicate the guitar sound of tracks like ‘Autonomy’ or ‘Fictionromance’. If I could bottle it, I’d make my fortune.

The crowd is wildly appreciative, and plain wild. It is the only gig that I have been to where I have had more beer thrown over me than I can throw down my own neck. It’s a karaoke type of evening, and everyone bawls along. This is a great help to Diggle, who is unable to muster much more than a string of expletives whenever he is near the microphone.

The second album ‘Love Bites’ contains their greatest hit, and the one that presumably still generates royalties. ‘Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn’t Have’ is pretty much perfection, and tracks like ‘Nostalgia’ also prove that this was their most fertile period.

However, this album also runs out of puff a bit on its second side- there are two mainly instrumental tracks and I have always thought that the band never quite had the material for a full record. This is a minor thought – ‘E.S.P’ and ‘Late For The Train’ are still great tunes.

The encore sees the band plough through their compilation ‘Singles Going Steady’ fo good measure. I cannot believe how long it is since I’ve heard ‘Love You More’ or ‘What Do I Get?’, nor how fantastic they sound.

Buzzcocks may be a bit long in the tooth, but their place in history is assured. If you haven’t heard these albums, you really haven’t heard anything.

Do your ears a favour here.

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