WORDS AND IMAGES BY PAUL EVANS
There Is That One Track Which Everyone Recognises And The Undertones Don’t Make You Wait Until The Last Song To Hear The Pop Perfection And Adrenaline Empowering “Teenage Kicks”
Specialising in melody dripping, blistering, fast punk new wave songs The Undertones are simply on fire tonight. The band thrash out a massive 30 song set list without a weak moment showing just how full and jaw dropping their back catalogue is.
As the Glitter Bands “Just For You” fades out over the PA the dedicated fans are crammed into the intimate O2 Liverpool Academy as guitarists John and Damian, bassist Mickey, singer Paul and drummer Kevin take the stage. “We’re The Undertones” says Mickey to great cheers. A guy behind me immediately yells “Family Entertainment”. “My God is anyone familiar with the 39 steps?” jokes Paul.
“There’s someone different sitting in Billy’s seat” Mickey continues,“Billy Doherty our regular drummer is not feeling so regular. We have our very good friend here who just happens to be called……… Kevin” the crowd cheers (a nod to the lyrics from the classic My Perfect Cousin). He continues further “You can do better than that, whose surname is……..Sharkey” (a nod to the bands original singer Feargal) the crowd reply with even louder cheers. “He’s our very dear friend and easy to pay drummer” he jokes as Paul kicks the air in time to the start of “Family Entertainment”. The songs 90 mile an hour drums, urgent guitars and Paul’s vigorous and frantic movements all soaked in red and blue lights.
It’s a blistering start and as the song finishes Paul asks the crowd “How ya all doin?” which is answered with loud cheers. Mickey joins the banter, “That was a great cheer from the back. Ask that again”. The cheer is even louder and the same guy in the crowd requests another song, as he shouts “You’ve got my number”, Paul laughingly replies “You’ve read the setlist” as the band launch into the foreboding and searing fifth single. The cramped crowd singing along with Paul as he pogos on the stage and invites the crowd to clap along with him as he holds his hands over his head.
Mickey and Paul are on top form already tonight and sincerely connect with the audience. “Kevin was just asking. I thought we were only doing two songs” jokes Mickey. “I Need Your Love the Way It Used to Be” from 2003’s Get What You Need is again at a blistering tempo and complements the bands earlier work perfectly. The frenetic “Jump Boys”, the crowd joining in on the chorus, “Billy’s Third”, “The Love Parade” from fourth album The Sin of Pride and “Thrill Me“from 2003s Get What You Need speed by in an instant.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about the bands, shall we say experience, but it’s been an intense night so far and they’d give any band a run for their money in terms of enthusiasm, song quality, fun and power. I am thinking though, that I’m not sure how they can keep it up to be honest and following my interview with Mickey that there’s not been any mistakes so far…….
“Mickey starts this one, it’s all about the bass” banters Paul, Mickey stroking his chin, smiling and looking on quizzically as there’s a false start to the next song. I smile as I remember the interview with Mickey where he jokingly told me “Boy do we make mistakes. Sometimes your mind just wanders. The last couple of weeks I’m like shit what key is this supposed to be in? (laughs) and I look over to John and try and work it out. Other times I look over to John and he’s playing the completely wrong key (chuckles and laughs) and he’s going “oh shit, what is this?” There’s that running through it. Punk Rock was forever that, we are not a slick movement”.
Paul admits it’s his mistake. “Can’t blame Kevin, my fault I had the wrong song” he jokes. “This is Jimmy, Jimmy”. To more cheers there’s another false start as Mickey must show Kevin the bass line. “Ah come on, we’ve had two hours to learn these” says Paul. The crowd cheering as the drums, guitar and bass finally come together in the classic third single. The crowd bounce and yell along to “Little Mummy’s boy, He wasn’t very old, though he was very small, He did what he was told” and with the anthemic chorus. The song finishing as Paul apologises and asks, “Isn’t Kevin doing great?” to more cheers.
“Tearproof” proceeds “Enough” which is followed by my favourite Undertones record “It’s Going to Happen”. Whilst other bands wrote political songs and early protest songs back in the day, The Undertones wrote about small details in everyday life like Ray Davies and The Kinks. “It’s Going to Happen” seemed a change for the band, both lyrically and aurally and although there are no horns on stage tonight, it’s a glorious, bouncing performance, the gathering joining in on the chorus with Paul’s almighty voice.
The set tonight has already been a collection of astonishing songs, however if you’re a fan of the band or not, there is that one track which everyone recognises and The Undertones don’t make you wait until the last song to hear the pop perfection and adrenaline empowering “Teenage Kicks”. The crowd are bouncing through the wall of guitars and I’m pretty sure everybody in the room is singing “Are teenage dreams so hard to beat? Every time she walks down the street” with Paul’s passionate vocals. The crowd punch the air as he sings the chorus “I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight. Get teenage kicks right through the night”, “Alright…” It’s simply sublime.
As the night continues, the crowd energetically jump and sing through the mixture of classic songs from the bands whole career True Confessions; Oh Please; Nine Times out of Ten; I Gotta Getta; Girls That Don’t Talk; When Saturday Comes; Dig Yourself Deep; Wednesday Week; Love Parade; (She’s a) Runaround; Girls Don’t Like It; Listening In; Hypnotised; Here Comes the Summer. As always, the banter back and forth from stage to crowd continues regularly throughout the night emphasising the bond the band has with each other and their fans. I always felt that the band were a group of mates who just wanted to have fun and loved what they did above everything else and even when things go a bit Punk Rock, there are still smiles and laughs from the band and audience. It’s a joy to watch to be honest. I’m loving the show and the crowd seem to feel the same way.
The main set concludes with the bombastic power of devastating second single “Get Over You” before the mandatory thank yous and pretences lead into a four-song encore of ‘Male Model’; ‘Here Comes the Rain’; ‘I Know a Girl’ and finally, the humorous and perceptive ‘My Perfect Cousin’. The words “His mother bought him a synthesiser. Got the Human League into advise her” making me smile as the band and crowd both leave the building.
It was a stunning, joyous 30 song set. A perfect adrenaline thrill ride by a band at the top of their game and a band who do it their way, just like they have for the last 40 odd years. A band who have gone through some rough times in the last few days and a band who still enthusiastically give it their all no matter what. I’ll be down again when they’re next up North and as they say in Ireland, it was good craic. It was really good craic.
1/ Family Entertainment
2/ You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It!)
3/ I Need Your Love the Way It Used to Be
4/ Jump Boys
5/ Billy’s Third
6/ The Love Parade
7/ Thrill Me
8/ Jimmy Jimmy
10/ It’s Going to Happen
12/ Teenage Kicks
13/ True Confessions
14/ Oh Please
15/ Nine Times out of Ten
16/ I Gotta Getta
17/ Girls That Don’t Talk
18/ Here Comes the Summer
19/ When Saturday Comes
20/ Dig Yourself Deep
21/ Wednesday Week
23/ (She’s a) Runaround
24/ Girls Don’t Like It
25/ Listening In
26/ Get Over You
27/ Male Model
28/ Here Comes the Rain
29/ I Know a Girl
30/ My Perfect Cousin
I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)