The Boomtown Rats are an Irish new wave band that had a bunch of Irish and UK hits between 1977 and 1985 prior to splitting in 1986. The group is led by vocalist Bob Geldof. The other members of the original line-up were Garry Roberts (lead guitar), Johnnie Fingers (keyboard), Pete Briquette (bass), Gerry Cott (guitar) and Simon Crowe (drums). The Boomtown Rats reformed in 2013, without Johnnie Fingers or Gerry Cott and have become a firm fixture on the UK festival scene during 2014.
Having never seen the band live before (apart from various YouTube clips from 1970’s Top of the Pops), we were excited at the prospect of seeing them ‘In the Flesh’.
Geldof is a Rock Star, Political Activist and occasional actor (he played ‘Pink’ in Pink Floyd’s movie The Wall), judge him as you will, we think that he’s a force to be reckoned with, just look back at 1985’s Live Aid and everything that went with it and show me someone else who has done as much as Geldof to raise WORLDWIDE awareness of a major catastrophe and bring much needed famine relief to stricken parts of Ethiopia, feed the world indeed….
Anyway, fast forward 29 years and here we are in Exeter’s Lemon Grove, standing backstage, drinking water and waiting for the stage times from the promoter.
Polly Money was the first act to grace the stage, she’s a 19 year old singer songwriter from Cornwall who recently finished the final year of a BA Hons Degree in Songwriting at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London (ICMP). Having supported MUSE in Paris in the past (alongside Biffy Clyro and Dizzee ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ Rascal), she’s no stranger to opening for major acts, how would she get on with a room full of ‘Rat Fans’?
Having written new material on guitar and piano, she treated us to a great selection of likeable acoustic pop accompanied with her unique voice, influenced by the likes of John Mayer and Jason Mraz, played from her heart with no effects or jiggery-pokery (apart from the light use of a loop pedal towards the end of her set).
She looked relaxed, cool and confident up there on stage, unfazed by the fact that the majority of the room were merely killing time until Bob and his merry band of vagabonds took to the stage. Her between song banter was engaging, amusing and demonstrated that she had the ability to ‘work the crowd’ to her advantage (I have seen so many solo singer songwriters who instead choose to hide behind their fringes and mutter things about being depressed….) even involving them in a bit of sing-a-long action! Whilst we were busy backstage ‘live-tweeting’ an image of her that we took literally minutes before, she was bigging up Sir Bob et al, readying them for the next act on the bill.
I look forward to catching up with Polly as she has kindly agreed to take part in our ‘Introducing’ feature (does she know what she’s et herself in for?) expect a full interview and links to all her social media pages very soon.
It Would Be Ok
Ain’t No Sunshine
Set it Off
Which leads us nicely to the next support act ‘The Mysterious Freakshow’, a 5 piece South West SteamPunk outfit, influenced heavily by Goth, Darkwave, punk and alternative rock. I was picking up hints of Siouxsie and Kate Bush in Fey Pink’s vocals. Their stage presence was sublime, a mass of dreads, top hats, chunky ‘Tank Girl’ style boots and pink hair, what else could you wish for on a Sunday night!
Their sound ranged from heavy to latino and just about everything in-between, certainly an act that will raise an eyebrow or two (in a good way).
These guys are set to play the the Annual Steam Punk Yule Ball at the Exeter Phoenix on December 13th , if you like the sound of them, get yourself a ticket sorted out now as the event sold out last year!
I couldn’t help noticing that there was a mad lady on the front row who was becoming very excited as the band played through their set, the vocalist then taunted the bass player saying that he ‘always got the girl’, I hope for his sake that it wasn’t the crazy lady in red on the front row…
Nature Take you
Song of Love
Run Nazi Run
Being stood side of stage, I was even roped into helping clear away the gear when their set ended, I must say that I did acquire ‘clammy pits’ (them drums are heavy!) and for me, this was quite a rarity as I normally don’t even break a sweat, standing about, jotting notes into my book whilst sipping water and chatting to guitar techs, hey ho, it’s all in the name of rock n’ roll I guess!
At 9:10pm precisely (not a second later), the lights dimmed and the video wall behind the drum riser burst into life, playing a short film showing how the band looked in their early days compared to now, it was an interesting interlude prior to the band striding confidently onto the stage, ready for the arrival of Sir Bob to complete the lineup and announcing that the show could begin.
Bob arrived on stage to huge applause, looking rather dapper in his ‘fuck off pretend snakeskin suit’ and beige slip ons and immediately launched into ‘(I Never Loved) Eva Braun’ which saw him strut about the stage, punching the air, looking agitated but controlled. Sir Bob was there to entertain, to put on a kick ass show of rock n’ roll, to prove that a band who had a 27 year hiatus could still show the ‘yoof’ of today how it was done! The track ended with a mind bending guitar solo, proving that they still ‘had what it takes’ to thrill and dazzle.
For a band that haven’t produced any new material in such a longtime, you’d not be wrong to think that it would sound dated, left in the 70’s/80’s, to be honest, their sound was not out of place compared to many of today’s offerings, if anything, it sounded MORE present and real today than it may have done in its heyday.
One would expect that the last night of their tour would be a little more reserved, a chance to recoup lost energy at previous gigs and slow things down, ready for a nice sit down round the fire with a mug of Horlicks (other malted milk drinks are available) and a copy of the local rag! WRONG, they were here to thrill, to entertain and to make damned sure that anyone who was lucky enough to have made the trip to see them on this cold Sunday evening would leave with a revitalised view of them as a band, I know I did!
'(She’s Gonna) Do You In' featured some immense harmonica playing from Bob, he seemed to be duelling with the guitarist at one stage and I think that any mere mortal would have found it hard to get up off the stage at the end of the track, not Bob, he was up, jumping about, his energy levels and sheer passion for the music was amazing, kids of today, take note, this is how to be a frontman!
Bob took some time out in-between songs to let everyone know that he hadn’t turned into ‘some globe-hugging fucking hippie’ and that he was still full of ‘raw fucking vulgar energy’, which the crowd lapped up. He then spent a good few minutes telling a tale of when Garry Roberts came to see him in 2013 (with his silver guitar), to talk about getting the original band back together, they prayed to Saint Boomtown and jumped into the ‘Boom-Mobile’ and headed down to an old venue that they hadn’t visited since they split in 1986, inside was a cupboard, the cupboard was pulsating and glowing, Bob opened the door and inside was his ‘fuck off pretend snakeskin suit’ that was covered in green slime, he quickly changed into the suit, dripping slime all over the place and off he ran to play a gig!
To me, it appears that the band is an escape for Bob, somewhere he can go to steer his mind away from recent tragedies and return to the days of old, performing some kick ass rock n’ roll music to fans up and down this land. You have to take your hat off to him, he really is an enigma, with his shock of grey scarecrow styled hair, manic look and goofy persona, you just don’t know what to expect.
The heavyweight tracks came thick and fast from this point forth, 'I Don’t Like Mondays’ was the singalong anthem that I thought it would be, complete with its overdue, pregnant pause which seemed to last forever. 'Mary of the 4th Form' was a crowd pleaser, topped off by the great ‘Rat Trap’ which sounded every bit valid today as it did in 1978, 36 years on!
The band left the stage to rapturous applause, it wasn’t long until the chanting/stamping and clapping began and a couple of minutes later, the band came bounding back on stage to play ‘Kicks’, ‘Diamond Smiles’ before ending with an almost dub-step version of their classic hit ‘The Boomtown Rats’, which, after listening to on an old LP, I realised was how the original sounded from way back when….
After 90 minutes, the band who had 12 top 40 hits (2 number 1’s), 6 albums (excluding a number of compilations) waved their final farewells and exited the stage, back to the dressing room where I hope they cracked open a few bottles of bubbly and toasted to a successful tour. Bob’s final words prior to leaving the stage? “Ladies and Gentlemen, THAT was a fuckin’ rock n’ roll show"....
Do You In
The Boomtown Rats
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Julian Baird