Dig Yourself that Lytham rhythm – The Undertones / Hugh Cornwell: Lytham, Lowther Pavilion Theatre

Two Undertones / Hugh Cornwell nights out in six months? In a year in which I’ve caught just nine live shows? Monsieur, with zis you are really spoiling us.  

Actually, with Derry’s finest it’s more Mars confectionery than that nonsense Ferrero Rocher serve up at ambassadorial parties, the real deal allowing my inner male model a chance to say, ‘I’ll take those.’

And that’s a rather long-winded way of saying a great night was had by all last weekend on the Fylde coast, the headliners and their special guests on fine form at the Lowther Pavilion Theatre, putting the rhythm back into Lytham, as latter-day chief Undertones warbler Paul McLoone put it.

The knock-on effect of a bypass crash as we skirted around the west of Preston meant we missed the first couple of songs, but there was plenty to savour from Hugh, joined again by the very talented Pat Hughes (bass) and Windsor McGilvray (drums), hairs up on the back of this scribe’s neck for ‘Always the Sun’ on a night of Stranglers nostalgia punctuated by solo years’ moments. Post-Stranglers highlights included two tracks from the splendid Totem and Taboo, somehow now a decade old, with ‘Stuck in Daily Mail Land’ and ‘Bad Vibrations’ especially resonant after another week of Tory freefall; while 2018 LP title track ‘Monster’ and latest single, the ‘Wild Thing’ like, rather raw post-lockdown Bowie knife cut, ‘Coming out of the Wilderness’, from the forthcoming Moments of Madness also impressed.

Going further back, ‘Strange Little Girl’ appeared on the setlist in ’74 (though it was another eight years before it became a single), while Rattus Norvegicus’ ‘London Lady’ was an unexpected joy, staged as it were one estuary higher than the Mersey tunnel. And although the subject matter of ‘Five Minutes’ seems too graphic for nostalgia, that also provided a blast from the past. As for ‘Skin Deep’, that provided another big sing-along-a-strangler moment, and ‘Walk on By’ gave us a thrilling showstopper. Yes, Burnel and Greenfield’s artistry made it a perfect cover, but this trio are also capable of a leftfield twist on quality Bacharach & David fare.

Since my last Lowther Pavilion visit, a statue’s turned up outside the venue, commemorating local light Bobby Ball, leading to the afore-mentioned McLoone’s mention of memories of catching Adam Ant on LWT’s Cannon and Ball Show back in the day. I looked it up, and that was 40 years ago, performing ‘Goody Two Shoes’, just a few months before The Undertones’ ‘The Love Parade’ became the fourth of their last six singles to miss out on the UK top-40, the writing already on the wall.

But if there was already disquiet in the camp in mid-’82, The Undertones Mk. II have had no such issues, the Bradley/Doherty/McLoone/O’Neill/O’Neill lineup now 23 years to the good and on typical belting form here (as Bobby may have conceded), in what turned out yet another night of end-to-end classic songs. There were, as ever, too many to mention by name,  but – without thinking too hard about the setlist – ‘Hypnotised’, ‘True Confessions’, ‘Tearproof’, ‘ Top Twenty’, ‘Wednesday Week’, ‘Billy’s Third’, ‘Oh Please’, ‘Here Comes the Rain’ on the back of ‘Here Comes the Summer’ (rather ironic on the first day that week I’d not got drenched at least once from dog-walking or nursery runs), and ‘Mars Bars’ on the back of ‘More Songs About Chocolate and Girls’ did the trick.

And yes, punk pop kids, the chocolate’s only there to keep the set the right length. That said, a wee bit of extra time at the close led to our visitors sticking around for one more song, giving us that evening’s second rendition of their classic Peel-loved debut 45. I’d have preferred a lesser-known classic, and they missed a trick seeing as this show landed so close to the 50th anniversary of the release of Nuggets in not throwing something in from that highly influential 1972 Lenny Kaye compilation. Not necessarily from the Chocolate Watch Band either. I’m not complaining though. I do love ‘Teenage Kicks’. Just maybe once a night will do though … unless it’s preceded by an audio recording of Peelie telling us he’s about to play it again, as heard at The Forum, Kentish Town in 2016.

Besides, a Lytham sing-along-an-undertones bash at ‘My Perfect Cousin’ had already done the trick, that self-same golden oldie aired again six nights later on our telly screens, the boy Sharkey (Feargal, rather than recent ‘Tones drumming stand-in, smart boy Kevin) leading a cross-pub rendition in Clonbur, County Galway on Mortimer and Whitehouse; Gone Fishing, a celebratory series finale for a BBC TV joy of joys. Slàinte, indeed, even if you’d have to walk a fair way out across the beach before you even reached the sea, heading due west for Ireland from this venue.  

As for my eldest daughter – subjected to so much Undertones music since her arrival in early 2000, the year the new line-up played their first shows this side of the Irish Sea – she declared her thankfully not much too late ‘Tones debut a winner as we headed back, a newly purchased advance copy of Damian O’Neill’s latest solo LP, an crann, making for good company on the way.

For this website’s recent interview with Paul McLoone, head here, where you’ll find links to plenty more Undertones-related features, interviews and reviews.

The Undertones’ Autumn 2022 dates conclude this coming weekend at the Waterfront, Norwich (October 20th); the Apex, Bury St Edmunds (October 21st); and the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (October 22nd), that final date also including special guest Hugh Cornwell’s trio. For tickets, try here, and for more information check out The Undertones’ website and keep in touch on social media via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Look out for more on Damian O’Neill’s latest solo record, an crann, out on November 25th but also available while stocks last on tour, on this website soon. And for more about that release, head to http://damianoneill.bandcamp.com or http://ffm.to/damianoneill.

Meanwhile, for details of the new Hugh Cornwell LP, Moments of Madness, head to his website or follow this link. And if you follow this link, you’ll find the most recent WriteWyattUK feature/interview with the man himself.

About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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