Sham 69 October 2009

Sham 69 – Cafe Drummonds – 30/10/09
The evening started off with Skizofrenik, a bunch of youngsters from Fraserburgh, who play a mix of covers and original material. I’ve seen them a few times over the past few months and whilst they’re definitely getting tighter, I’m getting fed up of hearing the same classics trotted out so regularly. Blitzkrieg Bop again? Ever Fallen In Love again? Sonic Reducer…..again? The thing is, they actually sound better playing their own material, it’s just there’s not enough of it. There is a new song aired tonight which sounded quite promising but they could do with writing a couple more and phasing out the covers. But if they are gonna continue to play the Subs’ Riot, I wish to fuck they’d get the words right. God knows they been playing it long enough.
Next up is Escape To Victory, who I’ve also seen quite a lot recently. They are pretty good at what they do (NYHC) but over exposure is starting to work against them for me anyway. I’m starting to find the singer’s regular stage moves of running about from side to side (on or offstage) and clutching his mike lead tightly to his groin like he’s bursting for a pee really irritating. Tonight he further annoys me by taking the mick out of the assembled Sham crowd questioning whether they’re skins or just bald now and urging them later to move into the 21st century. Quite rich coming from a band who base their entire sound on Sick Of It All, a band formed in the mid 1980s and who had their most successful spell in the mid 1990s. In fact, E2V trot out a cover of their heroes Step Down and promptly screw it up, all to a largely indifferent audience.
And the final support is Heller State, another band who have lately been putting themselves about a fair bit. Their Blink inspired pop-punk is also suffering from overfamiliarity. It’s not that they’re a bad band or that the songs are particularly weak. It’s just a sound that, in my opinion, has had its day and now sounds strangely dated – and that’s even in comparison to the genuine 1970’s tunes that were to follow. Strange. Anyway, you get the usual songs about tits, willies, being sick etc etc, the usual banter and ribbing between band members and you’ve heard it all before.
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.

2 Responses to Sham 69 October 2009

  1. Duncan says:

    Good review! You haven ‘t been particularly complimentary about E2V but it was well written, honest and made me laugh. I suspect you’re taking our reverse heckling a little seriously but maybe I’m just taking your comments that way!

    I’d say come review us again but…….

    Keep it up

    Dunc, E2V

  2. malc says:

    yes that is true about sham 69. you should get out more and see more gigs of sham. were ever i been people have been in 2 minds over tim but he soon won them over. tim has taken sham right back to the top again were they be long. plus the crowds just get biger and biger every time they go back. and bring in more younger crowds showing them what really punk is?

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