Buzzcocks: the Brook, Southampton – live review


The Brook, Southampton

May 16th 2013

Ok, they got a great review four weeks ago here, but here’s another opinion from a different kitchen. A full house, an all-guns-blazing performance… so why does Ged Babey never want to see his all-time favourite band live again? He assembles a jury of his peers…

Rather than just my jaundiced opinion and in the interests of balance and fairness, here are the opinions of a few friends, taken from online postings and private emails, of the Buzzcocks gig at the Brook.

Ian Canty

Now this was an odd one – so much of it was so very very good, but when it was bad, well it was like your beautiful teenage sweetheart turning into Ann Widdecombe.

The Brook was pretty well rammed and before you knew it Buzzcocks were on stage and straight into “Boredom”.

It was a set heavily weighted towards the first few records. Now I’ve not got any problem with that. The Buzzcocks have a back catalogue that most bands could only dream about and for the most part they do justice to some of the finest records I’ve ever heard. Sometimes they hit a run of four or five songs in a row which are despatched one after another and are simply breathtaking. Buzzcocks sound is such a beautiful sound: tight, restrained, a different kind of tension indeed but with perfect taste and style. But here’s the rub – Diggle’s current level of performance and coherence detracts from that wonderful style – the guitar hero histrionics and the rambling nonsensical monologues are totally against the spirit of what makes Buzzcocks great. And what’s more it is embarrassing to watch.

“Moving Away From The Pulsebeat” is completely mullered by Diggle – he keeps farting around during the drum part and it completely ruins the whole feel of the piece. Throughout the set he winking at the crowd and throwing shapes – I’m convinced he’s winking at no-one and it seems like a Tourettes like reaction rather than trying to entertain the crowd (which is how it may have started out) – he just seems daft and not the full ticket. And “Harmony In My Head” is a dogs breakfast, a complete sprawling mess, totally detracting from the best record he’s ever sang on, into a meaningless rant about “taking your library books back”?

The rest of the band seem to tolerate it with the odd laugh but its a shame they seem to be going down the same path as the Damned, stretching classic 2/3 minute pop songs out to 6 minutes plus with a load of heavy metal guitar solos. But whereas the Damned since 79 have tended to Metal anyway, its alien to Buzzcocks. One ponders as to whether Steve Garvey and John Maher (the second most important Buzzcock) were available, would Shelley shunt Diggle out?

Drawing aside this, its doubtful anyone was complaining about not getting their moneys worth. People jump about and sing along and seem happy enough. 20 + songs of the quality of “Orgasm Addict”, “Fiction Romance” “Whatever Happened To” “Nothing Left” “You Say You Don’t Love Me” I could go on and on but as I said before, left simply and unadorned without guitar posturing and mumbo jumbo it is just a beautiful sound. Here’s hoping Diggle refrains from ruining it in part soon.

Darrin Mitchell

Not sure what to make of The Buzzcocks last night….Pete Shelley looks like he should be behind the counter in a little old hardware shop and Steve Diggle did a great impression of a mad man trying to be a rock and roll guitar hero! Apart from that they were great!

Andy Missons

Buzzcocks just get better & better everytime I see them. So what if he wants to put solos in there, it’s 2013 not 77. Being in a band I know what it’s like adding stuff into songs & changing things. Thought they were ace. Also, all this negative stuff; what about there amazing drummer & bass player?

Tony Keall

You can’t de-Diggle Buzzcocks. The arsehole modness of him is integral. I think it’s that tension that still makes them still so vital.

And this is me, (Ged Babey)

I’m with the naysayers on this. Maybe I’ve seen Buzzcocks too many times. Maybe I take it all to seriously. If I was in Diggles position I’d probably drink and party just as much as he does… and consequently look just as foolish.

We (at Louder Than War) have been here before, when Buzzcocks played the Back To Front gigs and Diggle was a triffle “exuberant”. He has always been a bit of a showman, particularly compared to Shelley, but he really has gotten worse. Until he gets it together a bit more though, I’ve no desire to see Buzzcocks live again…. And I say that as a fan who has “emotionally invested” a lot of time, love & energy in Buzzcocks over the decades… I come to praise Buzzcocks , not bury them …. Think of this as less of a review, more of an intervention….

All words by Ged Babey. More writing by Ged can be found here.

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.


  1. Ged, like you, I’ve seen the Buzzers lots over the last few years as well as in their Imperial period. The end for me was after travelling from Glasgow to Manchester for the Back To Front gig, when Diggle arsed around through the whole set. He’s, lets face it, no Joe Satriani, and the stupid soloing was cringe-inducing. the pissed old man monologues are even worse. I coated him right off in my review at the time, but he’s still annoying me. You’re right about the winking, it looks more like Tourettes than anything else. Shelley should get rid of him before the legacy is unrecoverable. And believe me, I love Buzzcocks.

  2. Diggle made an arse of himself 5 years ago playing here in NZ. The sound was overpowering and the nuance and bitter-sweet balance of the songs was lost. He was gadding about on-stage like a punk rock Keith Moon. Get him a comedy show someone. Consequently I couldn’t bring myself to see them again here last month. Bloody shame.

  3. I was at the Back to Front show in Manchester last May. I enjoyed the show for the most part but have to admit Diggle put a downer on the whole affair. He really was an annoying tosser. I haven’t been back to see them since and to be honest, after reading this latest review, I don’t think I ever will. Diggle’s making a mockery of what the band achieved. Why the fuck do the others let him get away with it??? Drunken ranting during the extended version of Harmony In My Head, wanking around all over the drum solo in Pulsebeat, childishly cranking his amp up throughout the set, continually swigging champagne and generally acting like a twat. All while attempting to impersonate Pete Townsend, Mick Jones and Paul Weller. You might forgive him some of this if his playing ability was up to scratch but at the Manchester show he was out of time, out of tune and fucking up far too many times for it to be accidental. He clearly has no respect for the others in the band. If it wasn’t so pathetic, it’d be funny. I almost feel sorry for the guy because I can’t help but admire him for his undeniable contribution during the band’s heyday. The only way I can try and cling on to those memories is to steer well clear of Buzzcocks in their current form. I hate to say this, but if they can’t fix this problem, it’d be better for everyone if they jacked it in. Fortunately their back catalogue speaks for itself but as far as I’m concerned they’re not doing themselves any favours by letting Diggle piss all over it.


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