I don’t think anyone really notices when they leave the stage as minds are now turning to the night’s headliners, the reconstituted Sham 69. What are they going to be like? Finally fed up with original front man Jimmy Pursey’s unwillingness to play live and unreliability on the rare occasion he did, guitarist and chief songwriter Dave Parsons finally severed ties and found himself a new mouthpiece in the form of Tim V. Personally, I was in two minds about coming along tonight. I mean, Jimmy was so much the public image of the band and his would be big boots to fill. Oh well, time will tell I suppose.The lack of the charismatic Pursey doesn’t seem to have bothered the Aberdeen punks and skins too much though as Drummonds has filled up nicely by the time the band has taken the stage. Ian Whitewood batters out a rhythm on the drums and a familiar Parsons guitar riff chugs out as the spiky topped Mr V takes to the mic. “What have we got?” he bellows out. “Fuck all!” the Drummonds audience bellows back, fists in the air. And do you know what? It’s alright. They’re straight into Hey Little Rich Boy with barely a pause to draw breath. Tim V is a bit more gruff than JP but he puts in 100% effort and the power and simplicity of the songs get everyone going. It’s only song two and already there’s a mass outbreak of pogoing down the front by guys I’d wager haven’t done this sort of thing in years. I Don’t Wanna has everyone singing along again. It’s all very good natured, Drummonds just a mass of smiling red faces. None of the antagonism and animosity of yesteryear.
I should mention that this band also features former UK Sub Al Campbell on bass and he looks the part, thrashing away at his guitar adding to the songs primitive power. This line up has just recorded a new album, Last Gang In London, though none of it is aired tonight. They’re playing it safe by sticking to the early stuff. Maybe testing the waters for this first proper tour. Nobody’s complaining here tonight as the classics come thick and fast. Ulster Boy, Angels With Dirty Faces, Cockney Kids Are Innocent, I’m A Man I’m A Boy are all despatched with power and passion, and of course a helping hand on the choruses by the massed ranks at Drummonds. This is music at its most basic and it’s none the worse for that. I notice lots (and I mean LOTS) of people singing along with every word, every song and you remember just how popular this band was back in the day. And as if to show us why, the hit records get an airing. Questions And Answers and Hurry Up Harry (preceded by Tim asking “Are you all enjoying it? Are you all pissed?”) prompt more mass singalongs while Sunday Morning Nightmare has the crowd providing the Oooo-Eeeee-Oooo-Eeee-Ooooo backing vocal on the chorus.
A dedication is made to the late Joe Strummer and the band tear through White Riot. I note with some satisfaction that Tim knows the words a bit better than his predecessor did. A rocking Borstal Breakout ends the set to more scenes of mayhem at the front but nobody in Drummonds is going to let them off with that. The band duly returns to the stage and Tim runs through the band members saying where they all originate from, finishing of course with Dave “And he’s from ‘Ersham” . Cue for the goofy intro to Hersham Boys and more dancefloor madness. When it’s over, Tim gives a wee speech about the increase in knife crime and the violence among the youth of today before the band launch into their final song for the evening. What else but If The Kids Are United. Simplistic sentiments maybe, but ones that evidently strike a chord with the crowd tonight. I don’t think there was a person in the house who wasn’t singing along by the end of it. A great finisher.
Of course, the naysayers will still moan that it’s not really Sham 69 without Jimmy. I don’t know if it was or not. I don’t know if it was punk rock or not. What I do know is that it meant 250 folk in a pub jumping around with their mates, singing along with some of their favourite songs and having the time of their lives with not a hint of trouble anywhere to be seen. And what could possibly be better than that. New York Johnny.