12 May – I still remember the first time I saw Elvis Costello. It was in October 1977 on the Live Stiffs Tour at Leeds University. Playing with the Attractions he only performed 8 songs but I was hooked.
Some 35 years, and plenty of EC shows, later I’m as big a fan as ever. Tonight’s show at the Manchester Apollo is a resurrection of the Spectacular Spinning Song Book, last seen on these shores in 1986. The concept is that members of the audience are invited up on stage to spin a big wheel to decide which song is played and then given the opportunity to dance in the Go-go cage or sit at a bar during it’s performance. Sounds strange but it works. In fact this is the best EC show I’ve seen since I saw him in Liverpool in 1986 on the Costello Sings Again tour. The Imposters – Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas, and Davey Faragher – are in fine form.
He plays 30 songs tonight, ranging across his career, and it’s impossible to pick out a highlight but I must mention a song that he said he thought he would never have to play again: Tramp The Dirt Down. Unfortunately this anti Thatcher diatribe has become as relevant now as when he first recorded it in 1988.
Setlist: I Hope You’re Happy Now; Heart Of The City; Mystery Dance; Radio, Radio; Everyday I Write The Book; Accidents Will Happen; Deep Dark Truthful Mirror; Alison; Shabby Doll; Beyond Belief; Clubland; (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea; I’ve Been Wrong Before; Talking In The Dark; She; Watching The Detectives / Help Me; Strict Time; Man Out Of Time; Out Of Time; A Slow Drag With Josephine; Jimmie Standing In The Rain; Who’s The Meanest Gal In Town Josephine; Tramp The Dirt Down; Shipbuilding; National Ransom; I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down; High Fidelity; (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?; Oliver’s Army; Pump It Up
16 May – The Handsome Family are a more recent interest. Promoted again by the excellent Hee Haw Sessions they’re playing the Brudenell Social Club. Brett and Rennie Sparks write and play some very dark songs but, thankfully, there is a redeeming dash of humour in them. Their between songs banter is hilarious. If you get a chance to go see them you won’t regret it.
25 May – When people talk about the pioneering bands of Punk Rock the focus is always on the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Jam. For some reason Buzzcocks seem to have been written out of this history and that’s wrong! Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto promoted Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976,released one of the first do-it-yourself records and brought Punk to Manchester. I suspect what causes people to overlook Buzzcocks is the fact that they wrote great tunes.
Tonight they are playing a home town show at the Manchester Apollo, the first of two shows billed as Back To Front, the second is in London, to celebrate their 35 years existence. The concept is that the current line up play an opening set, followed by a second set from the classic hits line up and then a final set by the original line up. I haven’t seen Buzzcocks since the Beating Hearts tour of1978 but I’m not going to miss this.
The current Buzzcocks play a pleasant but uninspiring collection of recent material. The classic line up of Shelley, Steve Diggle, John Maher and Steve Garvey play a storming show including almost everything you’d want to hear. Finally, with Diggle switching to bass and Howard Devoto joining on vocals comes the performance I never thought to see – the original Buzzcocks!
The disappointment was Steve Diggle – playing too loud and trying to be the centre of attention. Fortunately he can’t ruin such great songs.
Not everything I’d hoped for but an enjoyable show by a vastly underrated band.
Comedy this month from the fantastic Rich Hall at Leeds City Varieties.