Angelic Upstarts: live review
Durham Punk Festival
Sept 11th 2011
Mensi is the real deal, the man of the people, the classic punk rock impassioned” we-mean-it-man” frontman who fronted out some of the key yob anthems of the second wave and took anti fascist action to the streets. Far from the posed punk polemic of some of the first wave he would be taking his politics and social concerns to the frontline but at the same time fronted a great band whose run of singles stand the test of time as punk classics.
One of the many bands formed in the wake of the classic 1977 Clash tours his North East crew were rough and ready but also wrote great crafted songs that were real hits and also wrote some powerfully emotional songs that dealt with nationalism, community and the desperation of the Thatcher years from the real frontline were lives and communities were getting destroyed. Go back and listen- there are some really great songs here- they should be ranked somewhere between the Jam, the Ruts, the Specials and Billy Bragg- sharp, sussed. political and social rock n roll and guitar driven pop that came in the wake of Joe Strummer’s mob- albeit with a far more roughshed edge, perhaps because they were right in the middle of the social destruction and not observing it from the sidelines.
Mensi has one of those voices like Billy Bragg, slightly off key because the passion takes over and it works brilliantly. He has the full force delivery of a force nine gale and the passion of someone who lets it all out, the passion of someone who really understands. Somehow he has been overlooked outside the punk scene (apart from Morrissey who remains a big fan) but people like Mensi- the no bullshit commentators, should be treasured. Far smarter than people think, Mensi deals in a punk poetry- just check his lyrics they are great- a North East Joe Strummer who has lived the life with genuine run ins with the law, car dealer and pub owner, he has lived in Thailand for a couple of years and has returned to the spit and sawdust of the punk rock circuit.
If you want your punk delivered as anthems, with an impassioned charismatic singer then you’ve come to the right place. The Upstarts comeback set is packed with singalong bellicose songs that are fresh from the terraces. The real deal.
There is nothing fake about Mensi, What you see is what you get. His passions and his beliefs are very much on his sleeve and are still there in the latest incarnation of the band. It’s hard to believe now but the Angelic Upstarts were genuine pop contenders when they started. They had hit records and appeared on Top Of The Pops. Listen to those tunes now and they are brilliantly crafted pieces of punk rock pop, yobbish enough to get the madheads crazy but melodic enough to sneak on the radio.
When punk talked about working class and council estates it was from an art school perspective, Mensi and his mob were living in the wastelands and very much at the heart of the so called second wave of punk. The raw and the real, they formed after seeing the Clash on the White Riot tour, a youthful Mensi had never thought of singing in his life was the natural frontman, a real rabble rouser and the band sat at the heart of the skin/punk crossover, a post Sham mob handed bunch of punk youth.
The band have reformed and split up endlessly and are back now with what could be their strongest incarnation for years. The packed hall is cranking it up as the band really deliver. Sometimes they can be slipshod but in 2011 they sound like a machine. The gig is a triumph, there is no aggro, just one great tune after another, ‘I’m An Upstart’ has never sounded better, they get away with a version of ‘Delilah’ leaning on the Alex Harvey version- an interesting comparison- another working class hero who made great music way beyond his so called limitations.
Mensi looks sharp in his Liddle Towers T shirt – keeping the name of the man killed by the cops three decades ago alive, he looks in good shape, younger than he has for years. the gig is a triumph. A great comeback.
Welcome back to the circuit Mensi.