Mickey Bradley

The UndertonesPaul McLoone
Academy, Liverpool
Sat 2nd April 2022

Phil Newall reports from The Undertones’ live show in Liverpool

A buoyant crowd greets Derry’s finest export back to Liverpool. Immediately noticeable is the absence of drummer Billy Doherty, who has been taken ill a couple of days previously. Bass player Mickey Bradley advises that he was currently in hospital receiving the best care before introducing replacement Kevin Sharkey; long time followers of The Undertones will know that Kevin has kept the beat for the band previously, as well as stints with Groove Armada, Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, and James Galway.

Once the introductions are over with, the familiar choppy guitar riff of Family Entertainment ignites the crowd into a joyous frenzy at the foot of the stage. Frontman Paul McLoone responds accordingly, pinballing between Damien O’Neil and Mickey Bradley. John O’Neil almost shyly tucks himself behind Mickey, whilst Kevin hammers out the sub 3-minute beat before were into You’ve Got My Number, and then the post reformation I Need Your Love The Way It Used To Be; we are just three tracks in and already this is a lesson in guitar pop perfection. Mickey Bradley provides the solid platform for the intertwined guitars of the O’Neill brothers – quite how you can shoehorn so much energy and melody into such adrenaline-fuelled snippets is mystifying.

The band themselves are clearly having a ball, there is easy banter between them, and Mickey Bradleywith the appreciative audience that negates the need for a particular stage show.A simple backdrop bears the band name whilst the colour wash lighting is about all the additional razzmatazz you get or frankly need. The original recording of The Love Parade relied upon a ’60s garage-inspired keyboard refrain – here that is replaced by blistering energy, whilst the vocal allows McLoone to show just how versatile he is. His voice is strong and he retains much better control over than his predecessor despite his efforts to cover every inch of the stage before hurtling into the magnificent Thrill Me, which has the crowd punching the air and singing along, word for word.

The Undertones are tight, the guitars are razor sharp as we are taken on a career spanning overview from Jimmy Jimmy with those wonderous vocal harmonies, to the legendary Teenage Kicks, True Confessions and the urgency of I Gotta Getta, before McLoone, now drenched in sweat, name checks the appalling US band Weather Report as a link ahead of Here Comes The Summer; and the deliberately off kilter balladesque Wednesday Week, ahead of a brace of timeless gems including (She’s a) Runaround, Girls Don’t Like It, and the majestic Get Over You. There isn’t a moment of wasted energy, each and every one of these songs are sheer perfection – nuanced, feel good, guitar-driven pop music at its very finest; yes their lyrics never had the political weight of the Clash, but the Undertones didn’t need to write about it. Growing up in Londonderry they were living it every day; their music, the girls, and the chocolate, was their distraction to the real troubles.

Encoring with a revved up Male Model, ahead of the later period Here Comes The Rain with its deceptively simple guitar riffs, and then after a 30-song set, perhaps almost in tribute to drummer Kevin Sharkey, they finish with My Perfect Cousin.

The Undertones delivered a masterclass in the art of song writing, and their material has transitioned from grubby 45rpm singles in fold over blotting paper sleeves to genuine timeless classics – the perfect rock ‘n’ roll show.

The Undertones online: Website | Facebook

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More writing by Phil can be found at his Louder Than War Author’s Archive

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Phil Newall is from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.

1 COMMENT

  1. Spot On ! They were an absolute joy when I saw them in Brighton on St. Patricks day, stormed thru their set to finish by 10 because of a Paddy’s day club night ! Didn’t they know the Undertones were in town !?!?! Genius.

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