“78 we were there,” shouts someone. These gigs, full of us 50somethings reliving their youth.
The Gang of Four are now a gang of one, plus fill-ins.
Vocalist Jon King left three years ago and guitar-slashing Andy Gill keeps grinding out more songs at the age of 59. Good on him.
This seemed to be a warm-up for the March North American tour.
Hipster-ism isn’t all bad. Ten years ago, walk out of Hackney Central station and you immediately felt a downbeat vibe. Was always looking over my shoulder.
Now there’s a brew pub with beardies fondling dimpled pint glasses round the corner and this place, Oslo, celebrating its first birthday is all buffed up, brassy, shiny as The Shard. Upstairs, the music venue doesn’t stink of beer and the floor doesn’t stick to your shoes.
Look at the band’s current website and it’s quite hard to find out who the new recruits are. John Sterry is vocalist, Jonny Finnegan does the drums and funk pumper Thomas McNiece is bassist.
King is missed on vocals as he always sounded on the verge of the raging hysteria that were at the heart of the angry lyrics. Sung by Sterry – groomed, young and fit – To Hell with Poverty, for example, can’t match the wild-eyed, bordering on breakdown delivery of the original singer but then that’s pretty much an impossible ask for the new guy.
Instead Sterry and Gill seem to enjoy a game of onstage dodgems, perpetually nudging each other during songs. What’s going on there?
Aesthete Gill lords the stage and the old faves – Paralysed, Damaged Goods, Why Theory?, At Home He’s a Tourist, Not Great Men, He’d Send in the Army – were mixed in with new tracks from What Happens Next, the new album, which is out tomorrow.
The latest numbers aired were raucous, alive and not a hackneyed retread of old territory.
The band’s re-formation in 2005 was superior to this – the best gig I ever saw. The version of Anthrax alone, the incredible tension and almost unlistenable feedback, the best thing I’ve ever heard live.
This couldn’t reach those heights but it proved there’s still life in the old dog and his new young puppies yet.
* My video above features Why Theory? and At Home He’s a Tourist