Out of all of the aging punk bands I've seen over the years, the
Buzzcocks are still among my favorite performers of the founding
fathers' set. The Ramones were still brilliant as they bid Adios,
Amigos!. The Sex Pistols were only in it for the "filthy lucre" and
Gang Of Four were sharp in their conveniently timed return. But the energy and earnestness of the Buzzcocks live show reinforces their eminence in the youth-oriented genre as it turns 30 years old.
My friend and photographer Sarah C. camped out near the stage stairs, hoping to stake out a plot away from the teeming masses on a sweltering summer night at Double Door. Manchester's finest took the stage to much applause and kicked into their rollicking hour-long set with material from their new release, Flat-Pack Philosophy. Admittedly, I haven't heard much of this record, but the songwriting was what you'd expect from Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle - biting, intertwining guitar lines, with incisive lyrics and snarling vocal harmonies aplenty.
After four newer tunes, the band launched into their string of classics with "I Don't Mind." The crowd, already enthused by seeing their heroes on stage, broke into a fury. I didn't realize that slamdancing made it into the aughts! Although it looked fun, I decided to head to the back of the club, having been exiled from my side-stage spot by my favorite mohawked security guard.
Shelley and Diggle were accompanied by longtime bass player Tony Barber and new drummer, Danny Farrant. Farrant seemed to be the happiest dude in the club, pummeling through tunes as old as he, following the nimble Barber bass. "Harmony in My Head" featured Steve Diggle's lead vocals and the always treacherous "mic-in-the-crowd" move. Diggle's crowd interactions were a sight, as he gesticulated and made faces throughout the set. Pete Shelley kept his antics minimal, preferring to entertain via snarled looks and smiles askance.
They rocked the hits from throughout, playing some of my all time favorites. The guitar work in "Autonomy" was pure perfection, from the galloping descent of the opening riff to the bouncing chorus bass-line. "Fiction Romance" is probably the only song in history in which phased guitar is both essential and awesome. "Fast Cars" with the prescient Ralph Nader name-check, the catchy-as-sin "What Do I Get?" and the closer, "Love You More," were all delivered in deft and inspired fashion. The five-song encore continued the hit parade with a sweet new tune, the amazing fretwork of "Noise Annoys," and teenage anthems "Orgasm Addict," "Ever Fallen in Love" and "Oh Shit!"
The Buzzcocks delivered a seminar in seminal songwriting last night.
The progenitors of pop-punk continue to innovate and entertain in a genre that is sometimes mired in aped cliches and bogus posturing.
Youngsters, take note!
Photos by Sarah C