The Undertones: Wolverhampton 26th May 2013 – live review

The Undertones
Wolverhampton Slade Rooms
Sunday May 26th 2013

Words: Chard

How lucky we were that Derry’s finest chose to bring their storming brand of bittersweet melodic punk to the Black Country for a Bank Holiday. The third in a trio of gigs that also took in London Koko and the Strummercamp Festival, a decent mixed turnout of all ages was treated to a thirty track romp through the band’s incredible back catalogue, featuring all the hits and many more crowd-pleasers besides.

Igniting the set with Top 20 hit Jimmy Jimmy, the boys launched into a quartet of classics from the debut album, setting the pace with Jump Boys, the optimistic Here Comes The Summer and I Gotta Getta. You’d be forgiven for overlooking the subtleties of the group when confronted with this onslaught – on a par with the hardest that any of the twin-guitar bands can supply.

A timely Thrill Me marks the first latter day ‘Tones material of the evening, incredibly ten years young and itself a now classic single lifted from their reformation album “Get What You Need,” with bassist Mickey Bradley and Damian O’Neill contributing harmony vox. The more reflective mood intensifies with the loping Tearproof, a bona fide second album nugget which re-bounces the room.

The intricate structures continue with “Hypnotised” favourite Girls That Don’t Talk – emphatically placing the band alongside such inventive peers as Magazine and Pere Ubu – and, rounding off this interlude, The Love Parade makes more sense in the live setting than ever it did when unleashed ahead of the ‘difficult’ fourth album “Sin of Pride.” Paul McLoone’s vocals do way more than justice to the original, a soulful yet bluesy delivery compels us to revisit this segment of back catalogue.

To raise the tempo, we’re treated to a jumping attack on Billy’s Third, and the crowd are a bouncing mob of party freaks once again; John still looks as if he’s surprised by the reverence his band are evidently held in. ‘It’s a first,’ advises Damian, ‘all our coats are off – it must be a very special night.’ And judging by the reception, he’s probably right: the venue is a sweatbox.

Paul provides some words of explanation to new track When It Hurts I Count To Ten, flip-side of his brainchild, their recent Record Store Day 7-inch release, which on this first hearing sounds deserving of a wider issue in future. You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?), is a real audience chant-along and gets the biggest cheer of the night so far. Family Entertainment sees the rhythm section lock into runaway freight train mode again, and My Perfect Cousin takes us back into the beating heart of our heroes’ chart-friendly period.

Until tonight I’d overlooked Wednesday Week, but here it shone with irresistibility, possibly their perfect pop song, Paul’s plaintive lover’s call surfing the O’Neills’ guitar interplay. Girls Don’t Like It filled every corner of stage and venue with its sonic assault – an almost unique blend from that particular wave of punk. It’s Going To Happen, from the criminally overlooked third album “Positive Touch” is persuasive despite missing the keyboard and brass fills of the hit single version: ‘Stupid revenge is what’s making you stay’ snarls McLoone, invoking shades of That Petrol Emotion.

Listening In with its stop-start harmony vox splendour marries Ramones with machine-gun riff-driven punk to an assured rapturous reception, and recent Record Store Day single Much Too Late sustains the tempo. Teenage Kicks belongs next, and works a treat; that the band plays this with evident wonderment and relish at this point in both set and career speaks volumes about the guys’ humility and down-to-earth credo, true to their original ethic. There’s no sign here of anyone tiring of their trade or going through the motions.

I Need Your Love The Way It Used To Be is another classic from this century’s brace of albums – Come on lads, let’s have a new collection, stop teasing us! The depth of When Saturday Comes reminds us just how well-crafted their songs really are, before we hurtle into the closing trio of first album pogo jewels, She’s A Runaround, I Know A Girl and personal favourite single Get Over You, the sheer momentum of which sees Paul looning around like Morrissey aping John Robb!

We don’t have to wait too long for another half dozen molten numbers to seal the deal: Male Model and True Confessions from the debut. Top Twenty and Smarter Than U eclipse the best work of lesser groups – most would kill for these in their canon, it speaks volumes of the quality of the Undertones output that these are tucked away on thirty-something B-sides. Hypnotised is a true invocation of lust as good as Shelley or Kilmister can conjure and There Goes Norman proves beyond doubt that there’s as much love for their albums as their chart hits amongst this grateful crowd. It is a beaming and exhausted Billy Doherty who is last to exit stage left, leaving his drum kit to shake hands with the eager front row of true believers.

Those Thirty tracks in full!

Jimmy Jimmy
Jump Boys
Here Comes The Summer
I Gotta Getta
You Thrill Me
Girls That Don’t Talk
The Love Parade
Billy’s Third
When It Hurts I Count To Ten
You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?)
Family Entertainment
My Perfect Cousin
Wednesday Week
Girls Don’t Like It
It’s Going To Happen
Listening In
Much Too Late
Teenage Kicks
I Need Your Love The Way It Used To Be
When Saturday Comes
She’s A Runaround
I Know A Girl
Get Over You

~ encore ~

Male Model
True Confessions
Top Twenty
Smarter Than You
There Goes Norman

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