The Buzzcocks back to front, Manchester Apollo: My take on things
I’m glad I didn’t review this straight away. I’m glad I read John’s review and thus all the comments responding to it, most of them spiked barbs at Steve Diggle. So I thought I’d share with all of you my personal experiences of this gig, and my response. My expectations were extremely high. I’ve loved the Buzzcocks for a long time for reasons both personal (Pete Shelley’s consistent bisexual loser-in-love themes were all to easy to identify with in my teenage years!) and the universal (they wrote some of the greatest pop songs of all time.) Furthermore, my obsession with the history of independence makes “Spiral Scratch,”Â an enormously important record to me (oh, and the four records which make it up are amazing!) The return of Howard Devoto for just these shows makes this something of a momentous occasion, which I make the journey from Nottinghamshire to Manchester for, a long and very hilly journey. By the time I arrive, I feel horribly travelsick and also look horrendous, so I really hope this is worth it! (By the way Manchester, I will visit you again, just on the train next time!)
Initially, the signs are promising. The current line-up open with a set of recent material, played extremely loudly and with full-on verve and vigour. Steve Diggle seems to want to dominant, but with his frequent vocal roles I don’t really think anything of it. The second half, reuniting the “classic”Â line up, is musically exciting. Classic after classic rolls out ”â “Promises,”Â in particular, sounds spectacular. But by this stage, Diggle is starting to become highly irritating. I’m really happy for bands to talk a lot, I love banter, but it is rendered somewhat redundant when you can’t tell a word the person is saying. I see somebody look at their friend and shrug in bemusement at his indecipherable rambling. He seems to think that, as his most famous vocal moment, “Harmony in My Head,”Â is their most important song, but he overplays it. His controversial dominance of John Maher’s glory moment “Moving Away From the Pulsebeat,”Â doesn’t go unnoticed either. One thing I didn’t notice which people are saying is the sense that Shelley can barely tolerate Diggle; I still thought the chemistry between them was superb. On the whole, I don’t think Diggle is so annoying that he ruins this set, as many seem to. It’s still a terrific set, brimming with fun; I’m a bit sorry the audience don’t seem a bit more responsive. I seem to be dancing by myself! (Special mention, then, to the man who approaches me and turns “What Do I Get?”Â into a skit, acting mock-crestfallen at my rejection!) Closer of the second set, “Orgasm Addict,”Â sounds utterly fantastic, lively and loud. Its an utterly brilliant record anyway and translates the Apollo in a genuinely exciting fashion.
By the time of the third set, the sense of occasion has grown. Howard Devoto’s arrival completely overexcites me. The people labelling him “bad karaoke,”Â are being unfair. As they launch into “Breakdown,”Â it sounds terrific. My concern before this gig was that the songs from “Spiral Scratch,”Â would not be played as fast as they sound on the record (particularly the breakneck “Friends of Mine”Â), and I’m right, but that was what I had prepared myself for. The songs may have been defined by their speed, but are strong enough pieces of songwriting to work at a slightly slower pace. For me, this last segment, the main reason I attending this gig, was a fantastic occasion. Diggle looks wound up by this stage; perhaps to aware that its Devoto’s moment, not his?
Sacking Diggle is not the answer, in spite of what some are saying. He is an important part of the band and removing him would leave the Buzzcocks like all those Motown bands touring with one original member! He needs to realise how he comes across and calm down; and certainly to not to appear ro be inebriated if this is what it does to him. I’ve heard alleged reports of “champagne and other stuff”Â which could well be gossip. Now, anybody that knows me will accuse me of hypocrisy if I attack anybody for their rock n roll fun, but I also know that I can’t handle drink that well and thus know when to stop. It’s a lesson I’ve learnt through age and experience ”â but I’m 25! So why hasn’t somebody like Diggle learnt this?
On the whole, this was a cracking night. I’d still secretly love to form a female Buzzcocks tribute act (I’ve got a decidedly Devoto-esque forehead!), and I still think Diggle is an important part of the line-up. Just be grateful, Diggle, for the band you’re in, now its not all about you, calm down and grow up”Â¦.