“Any day of the week’s when Saturday comes”
And when it entails a night in the company of The Undertones, it’s always going to be special. What’s more, this time it involved a new venue for me, five and a bit decades after The Rolling Stones and The Who rocked the same stage in this county-swapping Cheshire locality.
I’m not going to try and put this show on a par (see what I did there?) with those historic happenings or The Stone Roses’ euphoric return here five years ago. Besides, it meant more to me, in its own way. At the risk of repeating myself, here’s a band still playing for all the right reasons, long after their last chart success, and seemingly loving it all the more than when I first caught them live in the early ‘80s.
When they returned in ’99 with Paul McLoone in Feargal Sharkey’s spot out front, it was a huge moment for us, not least as they were back playing some of the numbers that had drifted out of the set by the time I first got to see them as an impressionable 13-year-old.
And this one was every bit as entertaining as June 2016’s visit to not so far off Chester’s Live Rooms. I saw them again in Kentish Town a few months later, but it was all a little too grand for this punter. This was far more intimate, just the way I prefer it.
First up was a sonic battering from locals Roughneck Riot, an assault on lug’oles and senses, a cacophony of hardcore folk-punk bringing plenty of smiles to faces. The first song on entering the hall sounded a bit like The Pogues’ Turkish Song of the Damned, and they carried on in that style, a more melodic finale reminding me of McGowan and co.’s Bottle of Smoke. Catch them live, but don’t expect your ears not to be ringing the next morning. Gloriously disreputable fare (for more details, head here).
Then came Derry’s finest, launching into Family Entertainment and never dropping below that high bar from there on, the smiles around me suggesting it wasn’t just me having a ball. Some down the front got there via mini-bus from Blackpool, the band announced. Could’ve picked me up. Probably best they didn’t though. They seemed to be having fun anyway, and more to the point so did the band.
At the risk of running out with another footballing comparison, In an ever-dependable five-aside line-up Billy Doherty was on fine form between the sticks, O’Neill brothers Damian and John added wing flair, Mickey Bradley was as close as we’d get to a cajoling captain in centre-midfield (there’s nothing remotely defensive about this combo), and McLoone was every bit as much the centre of attention as that former TV repair man with the voice of an angel back in the day.
Okay, so Paul likes to peacock around a bit, like his predecessor, but it’s all very tongue-in-cheek. Someone has to anyway. Besides, without his banter with Mickey, we’d just have to make do with all those glorious tunes.
I made it 31 altogether. Don’t quote me on that though. I tend to scribble down three at a time, and that’s hardly a fail-safe method. Come to think of it, I’m glad I didn’t attempt that method of reporting with the Ramones all those years ago.
Highlights? As usual, too many to try and name a handful, but it was as if getting Teenage Kicks out of the way relaxed them, so I’d start with the next track, the one that followed on that debut EP, True Confessions. It’s often the ones I don’t presume will get an airing that leave me in raptures, and on this occasion I’ll mention second LP title track Hypnotised, 2003’s Oh Please, and the third album’s You’re Welcome, always a delight to hear. Just another J.J. O’Neill masterpiece really.
Then there are those you don’t expect – for some reason or other – to make such a big impression, and this time I’ll namecheck Here Comes the Summer, a beautifully-delivered The Love Parade and the seemingly ever-more psychedelic offering, Julie Ocean. Oh, those guitars.
But none of my Undertones reviews could go by without mentioning – amid a set in which more than 20 of the songs were from those awesome first two long players – the stonking Male Model and You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It!), the latter described tonight as a song with brackets. Furthermore, Mickey confused some of the locals, suggesting Warrington was in fact the home of the bracket, inspiring consternation in various sections of the town’s Cultural Quarter.
Of course, When Saturday Comes had to be in there somewhere, with fellow encores I Know a Girl, Top Twenty and Girls Don’t Like It also lovingly showcased.
When Dee had a private word with Paul, Mickey demanded to know what they were talking about, and for a moment it was Bjorn Again acting out ABBA’s inter-band marital insecurities. A Dexy’s-like This is What She’s Like stand-off followed, before an impassioned My Perfect Cousin saw us out, the crowd in fine voice and co-author Damian beaming from ear to ear, another bonus night (and let’s face it, these are all bonuses) of rocking, humdinging wonder soon behind us.
If you missed this site’s latest interview with Mickey Bradley last week, here’s the link.
The Undertones’ 2017 UK/Irish tour (continued): Thursday, November 16th – Brighton Concorde; Friday, November 17th – London Camden Koko; Saturday, November 18th – Northampton Roadmender; Thursday, November 23rd – Sheffield Plug; Friday, November 24th – Leeds University Union; Saturday, November 25th – Newcastle Wylam Brewery; Friday, December 1st – Belfast Limelight; Saturday, December 2nd – Dublin Academy.