Electrowerkz, Angel, Islington, London,
16th February 2013
A Night For Celebration as UK Decay take London by storm with their first gig in 28 years. Louder Than War, needless to say, were in the audience in the form of writer Dave Jennings & photographer Elaine J.
It’s thirty years since UK Decay played their legendary farewell gigs at the Klub Foot in Hammersmith yet the hundreds who crammed into the Elecrowerkz will agree the world is a much better place with the band back among us and the fact that the show coincides with the release of their new single ‘Killer / Heavy Metal Jews’ is additional cause for celebration.
Having been active again for around five years, UK Decay have built up a new and young fan-base across Europe, and that, in addition to their loyal audience, meant there was a queue stretching out behind Angel tube station tonight containing a healthy mix of both sections of their fanbase. Tales of legendary gigs from the early days are swapped for more contemporary accounts of the bands’ triumphant headlining appearances at recent European festivals. Those who were here tonight already know what many more soon will when new album ‘New Hope For The Dead’ is released on April 1st; UK Decay are back stronger than ever.
One of the traits of the modern UK Decay is that live performances are rarer which makes it all the more essential to catch them when they do play. The labyrinthine Electrowerkz is a dark, sinister yet strangely compelling environment and therefore the perfect venue for the band to re-emerge into the capital. The excellent Italian duo Schonwald are the last of the three support acts on the night and set the scene perfectly with their haunting hypnotic sound.
Uk Decay take the stage with two of their earlier classics, the ominous, brooding ‘Unexpected Guest’ followed by the frenzy of ‘Black Cat’ but the band is not about nostalgia and with new material as strong as theirs, why would they be? ‘Shake’em up (Holy Ghost)’, a call for help from any god who cares against governments and their evil-doing is followed by new single flip side, the bitingly relevant ‘Heavy Metal Jews’. The band are creating a wall of sound that is all their own and Ray Philpott’s powerhouse drums provide a thunderous platform for the new songs which say so much while new guitarist, Jonny G, is also now fully integrated and ensures the essential guitar layers can be reproduced live. The surprise of the night is possibly the performance of ‘UK Decay’ from their debut ‘split single’ which is, less surprisingly, lapped up by the crowd.
Master of ceremonies, Abbo, is in inspired form as he works the crowd into exhilaration with ‘This City is a Cage’, an intense barrage of sonic and lyrical fury where backing vocals are delivered by Kyia. She stays on stage for ‘Woman with a Black Heart’ which showcases the versatility of one of the punk scene’s most under-rated bass players, Ed Branch. ‘For Madmen Only’ classic ‘Duel’ is delivered at a slower tempo yet loses none of its’ original brooding menace after which Abbo name-checks some members of the tribal following from the early days who are in attendance tonight. New single ‘Killer’ sounds fresh and intense as it delivers a savage indictment of US foreign policy.
‘I feel Good’ is a song of hope and personal survival and by now the crowd is in full voice and the mosh pit at full pelt as Abbo yells the rallying cry of ‘For My Country’ and holds the mic over the audience for each manic chorus. A studded belt appears onstage and, in a style reminiscent of years gone by, Abbo swings it over his head and in a moment the past merges with the present as this night for celebration moves towards the climax. Kyia returns for the final song of the main set, the ominous ‘Revolutionary Love Song’ with its’ anthem-like lines ‘And if the people don’t like it, it just might happen here’. Written in 2009, not long after the band reformed, it offers a grim prediction of the riots that unfolded in 2011.
As the band leave the stage, the instantly identifiable moans and growls that fill the PA indicate that the first encore will be the legendary ‘Werewolf’ and it is duly delivered in all its brutal intensity. Surveying the frantic response from the crowd with a smile of satisfaction as he hits the chords that seem to come from another dimension, is the legendary’ Mr Spontaneous’ himself, Steve Spon; the man whose devotion to the cause made the original reunion possible. A final encore sees the band return with the classic ‘Sexual’ and the inevitable ‘Unwind’ before darkness descends once more upon the venue and they are gone.
Everyone has their own hierarchy of ‘landmark gigs’, but this will surely feature highly on the lists of most of those present. London has witnessed more lucrative ‘comeback’ gigs recently but none with the intensity, honesty or relevance as that provided by UK Decay. Their reunion has proved they are more capable of creating a sound that is current and essential than many of the new young bands that hog the spotlight but actually say very little. Live performances are few and far between which makes it even more essential to catch UK Decay live if you can as on this evidence, they are one of the hottest acts around.
UK Decay’s website is here. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter & Youtube. THeir latest single was released last Monday and can be bought via the widget on the right or from the bands website. They have one more date lined up at the moment at Hat Factory in Luton on May 10th.
All words and image by Dave Jennings. You can read more from Dave on LTW here.