More Justice Tonight reports from our war correspondent from here…
‘Justice tonight has now gone international’, grins Mick Jones onstage at the sold out Academy in Dublin.
The first gig outside the UK for the event that has turned into a tour is a tidal wave of joy and looking out at the sea of broad grins in the venue is confirmation of the power of song.
Each Clash anthem is welcomed like an old friend, these are songs that have become part of the social DNA over the decades and proof of the real power of rock n roll to infect people’s lives and give them some meaning are cranking up the decibels and the hopes of a packed and varied crowd.
The age range in here is wide- from gnarled veterans of the punk rock wars to fresh faced teens mouthing the words with the Strummer poetry retaining its powerful meaning after all this time. In a week that the Tories were put on the rack, squabbling about pasties, quarter of a million pound lunches and trying to justify their mean and vicious budget their ‘we’re all in together’ rhetoric is looking far more ridiculous and ready to be choked down their well fed throats more than ever. Meanwhile ÃÂ the Justice Tonight tour returned with a real example of we’re all in in together.
The camaraderie between the bands is key and it extends across the traveling party in a no ego celebration of the life affirming rush of rock n roll- this warmth and humanity extends from the stage and into the audience for an evening everyone feels part of. This is ÃÂ something pretty special- a dual celebration of ÃÂ rock n roll and community- songs played to get justice and not for cash.
Six months since the first gig Justice Tonight enters a new phase. The initial gig in September 2011 was a statement, the following tour was a triumph but justice has still not been served. The 96 that died at Hillsborough have still not been given the hearing they deserve and the cover up still remains.
The government has turned the screw with the budget but still likes to claim their love for our culture, some of them claiming to be Clash fans- well, listen to the lyrics then for fucks sake. The Clash is not just about the music, it’s about the words, the stance, the humanity, it’s not for Boris Johnson to play in his office as he ruffles his curious mop whilst totally missing the point. If the politicians that pay lip service to the cool of the Clash were genuine they would listen to the band and their lyrics and take notice of what this tour is about and get justice for the fans. Now.
The continuing tour underlines this cry for justice and is making enough noise so maybe, just maybe, someone will listen.
And there’s plenty of people listening here, in this room, tonight.
Dublin is one of the great music cities of the world. I’ve been coming here for years since the eighties when Niall McGuirk used to put on the punk shows and brought my band The Membranes over, from those days we met bands like the Paranoid Visions who took the Crass template and twisted into their own loose canon shape. These days Paranoid Visions are even more on the edge and somehow have top 10 hits in the Irish charts and are part of a long tradition of punk rock in the city that stretches from the Boomtown Rats and U2’s mainstream take on the punk template and a whole host of other bands including young modern punk bands like Hooligan.
What’s cool about tonight is the first ever punk band from Dublin, Radiators From Space are going to share the stage with the Justice Tonight band, a fine example of community spirit of punk and a neat lesson in the history of the form.
Pre gig there had been some speculation over who would turn up to play the show , could it be U2? but a tour like this is bigger than names, this is not about celebrity and let’s face it there’s already an armory of classic songs played by key names already onstage here and that’s what I loved about Radiators From Space doing the show.
There may be no Stone Roses or Primal Scream style indie legends on the bill but that’s not the point of the tour. The Radiators From Space take the stage for the encore of Brand New Cadillac and a great rendition their own Television Screen with the Farm /Pete Wylie/ Mick Jones ensemble playing the song with the same fire as they would their own songs.
Years ago in the seventies we would go round to our stoner mate’s house and listen to the feint signal of The Dave Fanning Radio Show beaming over from from Dublin and we would hear the Radiators From Space on that and thought they were great. Over the years they have become one of these fascinating footnotes in punk history- a clutch of great releases, a band name that crops up when you interview punk groups from Dublin giving props to the band as a key influence, one member Phil Chevron plays with shane Macgowan but the band ÃÂ never got the big bucks for themselves.
Legendary status is a cruel mistress, the people that know, know but that don’t pay the bills. So it’s great to see them up there tonight given some of the credit they deserve as true originals, afterall this is the band that released the first ever punk record to ever get in the charts in the world when they gate crashed the Irish charts in 1976.
They look and sound great, dressed to the nines in a white tuxedo and a Mariachi style jackets they remember the first rule of the Clash- that you gotta dress like you mean it as they plug in for Brand New Cadillac which is a brisk bar room take on the Vince Taylor classic- all twanging riffs and guttural vocals whilst their own Television Screen is pure rock n roll cranked with a punk mindset.
Standing side stage watching it all makes sense in one glorious moment- the idea that punk rock was never about rock stars and an elite and even if Mick has got to the top he is still happy to share the stage with other bands and his time after show with fans, sharing the punk rock space, the idea that rock n roll is more than an ego trip but is something to be shared whether physically or politically.
The set itself, until this point, has already taken the normal route, the Farm come on first and run through their hits which are really well received by the audience, who in the classic Dublin way are up for a good time- singing along, the sound in the room is perfect and the Farm have never sounded tighter and All Together Now is the rousing neo classical terrace anthem of its period that hogs radio playlists and is one of those anthems like All The Young Dudes that transcends generations.
The Farm, remain onstage all night backing up first, Pete Wylie, the romantic troubadour with the bruised heart of a poet and the soaring voice of a populist rabble rouser, Wylie has a Frank Carson machine gun of a sense of humour and the ability to write deeply emotive songs like Story Of The Blues which remains timeless and the newer the Day That Margaret Thatcher Died that sums up the feelings of half of the UK when the Empress finally departs. At the end of his mini set Wylie changes the Maggie, Maggie Maggie Out Out Out chant into a Maggie Maggie Maggie Die Die Die chant and has the whole house chanting it back at him.
Mick Jones has already joined the crew onstage and is trading guitar with the fifth guitar player on the stage, the amazing Davo- a man who somehow plays with Paul Weller, works with the Stone Roses and plays with Mick all in the same week- laying down great guitar licks and loading the gear in and out at each show. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard and yet be so in love with rock n roll. Davo is one of those people you could not imagine doing anything else, one minute he is sorting out the slides that are projected across the backdrop and the next he is learning a set of songs for someone else who has given him the call and all the time he is one hundred per cent committed to his rock n roll job of the evening.
Just like the last tour Mick Jones is oozing the pure pleasure of playing the music that has been given this meaning. Punk rock was, apparently, meant to be of an instant but it has lasted for ever. These are folk songs now and when Mick talks or plays Clash songs he lights up. At one point I talk to him about Straight To Hell and he will explain the intricacies ÃÂ of the lyrics, still in awe to Joe’s ability with words- onstage he will sing and play with pure joy, like these songs were written yesterday.
Bankrobber sounds like a masterpiece, filling the room with its smoky ÃÂ voodoo, the opening Train In Vain is pure Motown chops cranked through the punk sensibility, the Farm get full marks for playing these songs so well, drummer Roy capturing the Topper beat and those brisk, tight drum rolls perfectly. ÃÂ Somehow the five guitar players keep out of each others sonic way and the interplay is great.
The songs fly past- Peter Hooton sings White Man In Hammersmith Palais with the misty eyed emotion of the fan who got to sing his favourite all time song and share that epic night in the life of Joe with the audience emoting the great lyric that takes the long lost reggae all nighter a starting point and gives a state of the nation address. ÃÂ Armagideon Time is epic and the set ending BAD song, Rush is hypnotic with Don Letts, who has been DJing tonight joining the band onstage for some cool moves and vocals.
All night after the show, as we run around Dublin people are coming up saying how great the night was and how good they feel after the show, those smiling faces on the front rows have been transported across the whole city and the power of rock n roll has been unleashed, that positive uplifting power that bands like the Clash bottled years ago is being allowed out again. You have to believe that the simple act of playing great songs with the right people and the right spirit can change everything.
The set ends with a chant of Justice- the eternal cry that lies at the heart of the great music…and for once you believe that we can get justice, not just for the Hillsborough 96 but for everybody- and that’s how emotive and powerful these songs remain after all these years.