Victoria Inn, Derby
31 May 2013
‘On Tour Forever’ read the T-shirts, and there are plenty on the streets of Derby tonight because the perennial Subs have brought their never ending spiky-topped road-trip to town. With February’s studio album “XXIV” (yes, their 24th alphabetical release) receiving deserved acclaim, UK Subs – 2010 winners of Steve Lamacq’s Punk Rock World Cup and officially the universe’s hardest working band – are already on their 47th date of the year.
Currently enjoying its most stable line-up since records began, the group providing the sonic aggression for Charlie Harper’s speed-blues ranting is anchored by long-serving bassist in residence Alvin Gibbs who re-joined permanently in 2003. Jamie Oliver brought fresh legs to the drum stool in 2005, the same year that Jet took over on guitar after a stint with the fragmenting Parkinsons. This stability is evident from the opening chords of outsider anthem You Don’t Belong, from 1981’s inauspicious Diminished Responsibility album, sounding great in this classic East Midlands setting.
Fast and tight Left For Dead prompts the crowded Vic to erupt, and there’s no let-up with Subs’ calling-card Rockers and its signature slogan ‘Born a rocker, die a rocker…’ Charlie’s timeless observation on the excesses of celebrity life is next, Down on The Farm slowing the tempo whilst keeping the vitriol and power chords set to sneer mode. I’d wager a round that the many young punks in the audience aren’t oblivious to the celebrity cover version by a certain G’n’R.
And that’s the trick about the UK Subs. They’ve never sold out and they’ve never gone away. Sure, they’ve had their poppier throwaway moments like Party In Paris, but they always strike the balance and what balance it is with tracks from punk rock’s dream juke box like Warhead and Emotional Blackmail. The former is treated to a full metal workout from Jet, it should be a fixture in every right-thinking person’s Top Ten punk singles.
More recent material gets an airing too, Riot is every bit as vital as the early catalogue – then I’m reminded, this may be ‘new’ from a long term fan view, but it dates back 16 years! Creation from 2011’s Work In Progress and a bevy of tracks from XXIV sit well in the band’s set which is continually refreshed and reinvented. Sure the hits are all present and correct, but there’s never a sense that you’re coming to a greatest hits show; like many of their peers, much best received material was originally discovered on B-sides, the evening closes with New York State Police, whose flip is nowhere to be seen.
Which is key to Charlie’s credibility, and whilst the band are the opposite end of the musical spectrum to The Fall, it’s impossible to ignore the similarity in their vision. Their shared credentials, built on solid graft, uncompromising in the face of plastic music fashions, and held in esteem by a firm brotherhood of believers always prepared to give them a fair hearing. Boiled down to its basics, this is primal protest rock, with an eye on a good time and ear for a good tune.
Charlie’s men deliver and they deliver well. This is a no-nonsense, no-frills, rock out. Behind his round shades, Charlie’s as much a showman as Ozzy, but there’s no artifice here and no tendency to artiness either. His band is a well sorted and lean punk rock machine, locked into hard fast mean riffing, and remains as true to their grass roots ideals as when Charlie auditioned the first line up in ’76. Long may they remain on the never-ending road to their next sound check in another typical town.
You Don’t Belong
Left For Dead
Down On The Farm
Time and Matter
Fear of Girls
~ encore ~
Live In A Car
Party In Paris
New York State Police