I know it sounds preposterous but I have never seen the Saints play live.
Me and the classic Australian punk roots band have missed each other across all corners of the globe but it’s not for the want of trying.
For decades some of their songs have been a firm part of my life- This perfect Day, I’m Stranded and Know Your Product are not only three of the best songs of the punk period- they are three of the greatest songs ever written- full of fierce energy, sharp lyrics, and brilliant dynamics- mashing a flamethrower wall of sound guitar and great sneering vocals- I will love those songs for ever.
Somehow The Saints managed to invent the punk sound in isolation in Australia and came to the UK as bemused late teens. They delivered one of the great Top Of The Pops appearances, where their sneering attitude and lack of kings road glamour arguably invented the whole post punk aesthetic in less than three minutes of fuck you genius.
They have remained a cult band ever since built around singer Chris Bailey who can still write a crafty song and their intermittent touring makes it tricky to catch up with them. Tonight sees Chris and some other blokes sweat their way through their set in Manchester tonight in a mix of songs from throughout their career and some new titles that sit at the superior end of bar rock.
Long gone is the manic, buzz saw, rush of their breakout days- this is a more crafted and more rock band these days. Curiously Bailey plays bass and plays it very well and it doesn’t get in the way of his vocals which, if anything, are even better after all these years. His voice sounds superb- it’s larynx leather and lounge lived in and its’ soulful tones, mixed with the classic sneer of his youth, mark out the songs out and give them an edge they may not already have.
The long haired Bailey looks like he’s lived the life and his twinkling eyes and sardonic sense of humour are a key part of the set. He’s a funny man and deals with a heckler perfectly and his amiable nature and charm are key in filling the venue with a warmth that is appreciated by the veteran audience.
If the music is not quite the punk rock wall of sound or the stax horns and sandblast guitars of the band’s breakthrough period they still have enough in the tank to make them compulsive and the band are a tight and powerful unit.
They dash of a slower version of This Perfect Day and a surprisingly great version of Know Your Product which caps the set and are a brief reminder of the Saints history before they return to the blues infused rock of their current status.