Chameleons Vox
Manchester, Sound Control
Dec 2012
live review

Songs from the Tap Room

Of all Manchester’s lost bands, The Chameleons remain the most missed. Failed record deals, a stoical adherence to principles, band fall-outs and critically the death of a manager prompted a premature demise. Dark and brutal they emerged from unhip Middleton – a town on the edge of the M60. They were never going to appeal to the London music press. Their fans were plumbers, postmen and plasterers. When the back end of the last re-union fell apart Burgess and original drummer John Lever recruited a new cohort with a view to sharing the band’s back catalogue amongst a new generation.

Some music critics sited their elemental anthems as myopic but Chameleon’s songs ran far deeper than any record company balance sheet. Remind ourselves they were forged in the burning heat of Thatcher’s decaying Britain. Detached from Tony Wilson’s Factory they somehow managed to throw shapes and textures within rock’s often constrained square box, something their contemporaries failed to do. It’s on show tonight from the onset with the opening ‘Swamp Thing’ as good an opening guitar line as anything from Jonny Marr. ‘Caution’ a7 minute epic about heroin addiction and ‘Tears’ an angst ridden letter to a friend besieged by cancer all belie the pub rock theory. Tonight a smattering of Eno-esque keyboards adds even more colour to these subtleties.

Yes, they have an arsenal of crowd pleasers – ‘Monkeyland’, ‘One Flesh’ and ‘In Shreds’ all get a good airing and there’s a blinding version of ‘Don’t Fall’ a live favourite which reminds us of what a punk rock gig must have been like back in the day. On ‘Soul In Isolation’ Burgess ad libs lines from Joy Division, The Fall and The Beatles, before taking to the audience and carried back and forth across a sea of adoring legions.

Catharsis drips from the veins of those present in the sell out crowd and it would seem for Burgess himself.

They deserve to be appreciated.

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