and loads of others
Sept 24th 2011
'can I buy your coat?' the night I met Joe Strummer blog
review of BAD from Beautiful Days festival
Every gig should have a reason.
In the past couple of decades music has become detached from the community. Detached from real life. Corporate branded venues flogging you booze whilst the band plays in the background. Everyone trying to squeeze some money out of you before the whole damn ship goes down.
Tonight was so far away from this that it's emotional power knocks you flat.
Let's just look at the facts. The history of the event.
Clash legend and the perfect elder statesman of rock n roll Mick Jones played a set of Clash songs for the first time since he was kicked out of the band in 1982.
It sounds amazing.
The gig is being promoted by the 'Don't Buy The Sun' campaign. Still justifiably shocked and appalled by the way The Sun reported the Hillsborough tragedy, the campaign rolls on. The Sun has its lowest sales in the city and the fact that the Murdochs are no longer imperious started here. Tom Watson MP, the man who brought the Murdochs to their knees does an inspiring speech tonight, it's a pure rock n roll moment. A one man political punk rock machine Watson took on the media barons who have tabloided our culture and made fools of us and treated people appallingly and he's winning.
The night has a political air, trade union leader and the head of Unite Union Len Muclukley also talks and delivers an emotive speech, this is not the sort of well meaning political droning you sometimes get at gigs but three minute slices of passion and humanity, making a noise just when is needed, like I said pure rock n roll.
The gig is also about getting Justice for the Hillsborough 96. Its unbelievable that, after all this time, the truth has not been told and the cover up continues. People want justice for what happened that day and they want the owning up about the rot coming from the top. The very top. People were justifiably angry about the way that football fans were treated worse than animals and died in the most appalling and heart breaking of conditions and no-one took the rap. The government at the time were as guilty of this as anyone. Check their comments about football fans at the time. The fact that it was 96 Liverpool fans is irrelevant. It could have been anyone in those death trap grounds at the time. It could have been you.
Tied into this is all proceeds of the gig are to be donated to the Fazakerley 9 Charity in memory of James McVey, a young Liverpool fan who was murdered and who's father is campaigning to buy some local fields to make into facilities for bored teenagers. The father ends the night with a powerful speech of raw emotion, a perfect epitaph to an important event.
Everyone is playing for free and I was totally honoured to be the compere. There's nothing in it for the band, no money- just the total honour of being involved in a powerfully emotive campaign for justice.
The night kicks off with the Sums, Diggsy of Oasis song fame, a proper scouse legend, one of those charismatic characters that the city produces, a waif like man who's still out the believing with his crystal clear voice and songs that are tinged with beat, a touch of Britpop and a psychedelic twist that is part of the water supply in the North west. Give the man a guitar and he becomes a poet with a 15 minute mini set of melodic quicksilver.
He is followed by the Tea Street Band who deal out a mesmerising, hypnotic set of keyboard driven songs that end with a long piece called 'Fiesta' that is the sort of song you could get lost in before giving up the stage to Amsterdam whose raucous punky folk is dripping with the same sort of charismatic bonhomie as the Pogues and whose heart on the sleeve shenanigans are perfect for this event. With tunes flowing like the Mersey this is perfect port music, a myriad of influences and styles washing through their sound.
Next up is John Power, the Cast and former Las man who plays a solo set of singalong hits that sound powerfully emotive when stripped of all artifice and bombast, Power has a great voice and a loveable charisma and is one of those great wavering Liverpool singers whose songs are natural anthems and get the audience singing along.
The amazing venue is now packed, it's one of the great halls in the UK, a former circus which has showers for elephants in the basement it has that kind of unique atmosphere that old venues had before the corporate, concrete boxes took over. Could there be any better place to see some real electric history?
The inane is perfect for an event like this. And when the headline ensemble takes the stage, the venue's grandeur matches what's on the stage. A rolling rock n roll review of local legends who take the stage in full support of eachother starting with the Farm who bring the house down with their classic 'All Together Now' which has transcended critics and become a people's song, the sort of tune sung at Labour Party conferences or people events like this, the whole room sings along and the band have never sounded better, veteran status really suits them giving them a chance to relax into their natural intelligence and street smart charm with frontman Peter Hooton a great spokes person with his innate knowledge of norther street culture giving him a gravitas.
Like a fine wine the Farm improve with age and have become part of the fabric of the city and their mini set is rapturously received before their set segued into Pete Wylie's which is something else.
Wylie, where the fuck have you been?
Plaintive,powerful, emotional, political, human songs are just what we need right now. Where are ya?
Wylie owns the stage like a natural, his voice is as pure as it ever was and the emotion pouring out of him along with the sweat is palpable. Wylie is as charismatic as ever and his songs are as part of this cities folklore as Springsteen's are for New York- blue collar anthems of spectral beauty and haunting raucous power and he doesn't even play 'Story Of The Blues'! The run though of 'Heart As Big As Liverpool' says everything you need to say about the evening and there is a notable surge of emotion as Wylie sings and does his imploring mini speeches between the songs demanding Justice.
How can you top that?
With Mick Jones.
The Clash are now, of course, legends. As every day goes past their songs mean more and more and as the world veers into these meltdown times we need them more than ever. Without Joe it's almost impossible to take them back out on the road but somehow Mick has found a way of doing this. He has not reformed the Clash, he has reformed the Spirit Of The Clash!
You can see Strummer grinning as he looks down on this. Because surely this is what the whole thing was about. The band's music being used to underline a powerful cause, a meeting of pop, politics, football and community...can you get any more Clash than that? This is what the band's music was for and as Jones walks on the stage looking super sharp in a perfect cut shiny grey suit the room goes mad.
They rattle through a set of Clash classics 'Stay Free', 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go', a thrilling 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' (wow!) BADs underated brilliant 'Rush', a powerful Armageddon Times- the backing band is the Farm who do the songs the sort of justice that only Clash fanatics can. Farm bass player Carl Hunter is in meltdown as he plays the bass on the songs that made his life growing up on the council estates of Bootle.
The power and the reach of the music has come full circle, Jones does his Chuck Berry shuffle across the stage and can't stop grinning, a QPR fan and football fanatic, he knows why this gig is happening, far away from the out of touch rock star he is bang smack in the middle of a crucial campaign. He looks to the left and it's Wylie giving it everything for one song before Jones himself takes the vocals on 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' before Pete Hooton sings 'White Man', of course the room is going bonkers crazy, this is a historic moment, the Clash are back, Joe Strummer's ghost is on the stage, his right leg twitching, you can feel it in the room, the Spirit Of The Clash are back and doing what they did best, making great rock n roll for the community, making a powerful point, being the focal point and that surely is what it was all about.
There is talk of somehow taking a version of this out on the road under the banner of Justice for the 96. They should do it. This is far away from a cash in, this is what the Clash were built for. This is what rock n roll is all about.