Anti-Pasti play their first home town show in nearly two decades and prove that comebacks don’t have to be about nostalgia.
Reunion gigs usually go one of two ways. Indeed there may be some (limited) merit in churning out cabaret nostalgia for the benefit of people who want a short trip back into their teenage years. This, though, is by far the more exciting way of doing it.
Dragging an excitable crowd back to 1981, when Anti-Pasti released their career-defining album The Last Call, would’ve been the easy option. Instead, what the four-piece do is pull 1981 through a 21st Century prism, rejuvenating and refreshing rather than exhuming.
Neither is it the last hurrah of old punks about to settle into middle age; make no mistake, Anti-Pasti 2013 is a visceral beast of a band, lean and lithe, supple and sinuous.
OK, it might not be the Ajanta (there, £4 bought you a night out, tonight it buys you a pint), and the shirts now go up to XXL, but this characterless local authority venue is being given a relentless pummelling.
Southside Rebellion, offering a mixture of well-selected covers, have opened the evening. That’s something of a poison chalice, given the number of people renewing old acquaintances in the bar, and struggling four-deep to get a drink. The Reverends follow, a sure-footed performance and strong material making them well worth further investigation.
There’s no doubt what the raucous crowd are here for, though – the first hometown gig for 18 years. Another Dead Soldier, as relevant now as it was then, opens proceedings, then into City Below, and suddenly you realise the other huge advantage the 30 year gap since these songs were committed to vinyl has brought. With today’s technology, the riffs sound immense, Godzilla-sized chunks of electric guitar.
Martin Roper’s voice carries authority as he covers every inch of the stage, preening and goading in equal measure, willing the near-sellout crowd to share the band’s energy. Ollie Hoon’s guitar crunches rewardingly, while behind the drumkit, Kev Nixon delivers his no-nonsense mantra: Hit It. Hard. The vocals and bass of Ben Hanson, though the relative ‘new boy’, add immeasurably to the mix.
For the diehards, the classics may be what excites. But Anti-Pasti have been working on new material, and drop four new songs into the set. Viva Che is third in, a brave positioning. I See Red, Time To Hate and Lies, Lies, Lies are interspersed and carry an energy which fully endorses the proposition that this is a band with a future.
Of course the ‘hit single’ No Government is the highlight for most, but taken as a whole, this has been a powerful demonstration of relevance and a potent manifesto for the future.
All words by Johnny Sparks.