You’ve no doubt heard of the Buzzcocks, even if you’ve never heard of them, there’ll be songs that they’ve done that you will have heard of, be it the contagious tones of ‘Promises’ or their legendary hit ‘Ever Fallen in Love’, you’ll be nodding your head along in recognition as soon as the opening bars play. Watch any TV show looking back at the golden years of punk rock and they’ll be on a stage, giving 110% as they did (and continue to do to this very day), playing exciting, energetic and memorable songs that helped to shape the punk rock movement way back in the late 1970’s.
We heard that they were touring in 2016 and before we knew it, the night was well and truly upon us. We headed up to Exeter to join others in what we hoped would be a feast of punk rock, played in a more intimate environment to a room full of adoring fans, read on to see how the evening unfolded….
Kicking off the evening were Southampton based 5 piece ‘Lost Boys’, who seemed to have been plagued with all manner of issues ranging from travel upsets, dodgy parking arrangements and amplifiers not working, to top it all off, they hadn’t been able to break for any food…..
Owing to the amplifier problems, they had to use the announcement system in the Exeter Phoenix venue and were asked to ensure that were only able to play ‘clean poppy tracks – no dirty noisy ones’, I wasn’t sure if that meant in terms of language or nothing too rough and loud that the dodgy sound system may have struggled to cope with but it seemed to have limited them in terms of choice of tracks. In the heady days of punk rock, this request would have resulted in a middle finger being raised and a wad of phlegm being deposited on said requestors shoes….
Despite all these issues, they delivered a lively, competent and confident set – I really enjoyed them and will definitely look out for them again. They interacted with the crowd well and established a good atmosphere from the outset. They had a good sense of humour (on the self-deprecating side). They introduced each track with a little bit of chat re what the song was about – some quite comical touches. There were numerous references to whether there was a KFC in Exeter - not sure if it was just hunger or after some sponsorship…. To top off the set, they claimed to be huge Buzzcocks fans but I noted they didn’t stick around for their set (maybe the allure of a chicken tower burger was just too much!)
Mr & Mrs
The Girl on checkout 9 (echoes of Weezer sound for me)
No Kisses (un requited love with a country vibe and a nod to ‘Cotton Eye Joe’)
A Better Life (recorded at Paul Weller studios)
China in the Sink (new single)
What struck me from the word go was that there was a very wide age range in the audience – from schoolboys to aging punks, great to see that a legendary band such as the Buzzcocks are still reaching out to new fans. Tonight was completely sold out, it was absolutely packed, almost no breathing space and from the second they took to the stage until they left, they were very very loud! (I got that rumble in my chest that seems to stay with you for hours after the show ended)
Musically and instrumentally, they were very polished and accomplished (which ironically Punk never was) and although Punk was never noted for ‘beautiful’ vocals I have to admit that the vocals didn’t come across as well as they could have on a few of the tracks and perhaps could have been up in the mix a bit more as they weren’t always audible.
The classics lived up to expectations, each performed with obvious experience, high energy andstage presence but in all honesty I’m not sure the raw essence of punk rock travelled that well into the era in which you’re approaching your pension (band and audience members alike) – although there were still some pogo attempts going on in the front 3 rows, no doubt some stiff joints/damaged hips the next morning!
The band seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the crowd was (I don’t remember seeing punks smile so much back in the day – maybe something to do with the bottle of ‘Moet’ smuggled in from the backstage rider to act as the stage tipple of choice (I’m sure it was canned lager back in the day!).
‘People are Strange Machines’ and ‘Its Not You’ were the only two tracks from their most recent long player (released in 2014), but these blended well with the older stuff which the majority of the audience had come to watch them perform.
They positively rattled through the set list with little audience interaction (slightly disappointing for me – I thought there might be a few good stories to tell after 40+ years in the business). The set whizzed by surprisingly quickly given the number of tracks delivered and reached a fairly predictable (but none the less enjoyable) encore/finale, finishing bang on the dot of 11pm.
It was a fun evening reliving at close quarters some of the high energy tracks of my youth. Would I see them again? Definitely!
I just need to mention that owing to a predominantly male audience, I think this was the first time I’d been to a gig where I’ve seen a queue for the men’s but had my pick of a line of free cubicles in the ladies….
You Tear Me Up
I Don’t Mind
Whatever Happened To?
Totally From the Heart
Why Can’t I Touch It?
Love You more
It’s Not You
Somethings Gone Wrong
What Do I Get?
Ever Fallen in Love?
Harmony in my Head
Words by Cheryl Williams
Pictures by Rhod Cooper
For more pictures from the show, please click HERE