Albert Hall, Manchester, UK
7th October 2016
The Buzzcocks are one of Manchester’s most influential bands, it’s worth noting that two of their original members, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, organised the Sex Pistols concert at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, a concert that did more for Manchester’s music scene than any other single event in the city’s history. Tonight they are playing Manchester’s Albert Hall in the heart of the city centre, the venue was a Wesleyan chapel in it’s previous life, it still boasts the original stained glass windows and it seems to be a suitable setting for the gathering of the Buzzcocks faithful following.
The Buzzcocks have employed a local up and coming band to open proceedings, Spitting Pips, they carry the swagger of Oasis and the singers Mancunian drawl draws obvious comparisons with the Gallagher brothers, however as they don’t seem to have felt the need to recycle The Beatles back catalogue or engage in pointless sibling rivalry, bickering or infighting that’s where the comparisons end. They have a small but enthusiastic following with them and the play a brash set of indie influenced rock ‘n roll, their set ends in chaos with the bass player rugby tackling the drummer, indicating they may have more in common with Oasis than I first thought, the result is a tangled mess of drums, cymbals and limbs that marks a memorable end to their brief set.
But aside from the Spitting Pips small loyal following everyone is here for one reason, the Buzzcocks are back home in Manchester, the town that spawned them just over four decades ago. Tonight you could probably guess the set list but as this is billed as Buzzcocks 40, which indicates this will be a revisiting of past glories, no one particularly cares. Original members Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle are the ever present core of the band, along with long term collaborators Danny Farrant and Chris Remington. They open with Boredom, a track from their 1977 debut single Spiral Scratch, and from this point we’re in for eighty minutes of some of the finest songs in punks forty year history.
Steve Diggle still manages his trademark stage moves and Pete Townsend guitar posturing, Pete Shelley is less animated but has retained that lovelorn vocal that has made so many of the Buzzcocks songs truly haunting and unforgettable, Chris Remington is pure rock n roll, standing stock still in classic bass player pose and glaring out into the audience, and Danny Farrant hammers the drums with rhythmic precision, this line up has been together, recording and touring, for almost ten years and this is the most stable line up the Buzzcocks have had during their long career, and that comes across in just how good they sound live across this four decade spanning set. It must be noted that the Buzzcocks are not solely dependent on the glory days, songs from later albums, including 2014’s impressive album The Way, have earned their inclusion in the set.
The Buzzcocks material has certainly stood the test of time, the material that was written back in the 1970’s sounds a fresh and energised as it ever did. There is not a single moments relief in the set, every song played is a classic and aside from their obvious well known singles, that receive a rapturous reception, every song is greeted with adulation and an enthusiastic mosh pit. During the set withering glances are cast from Pete Shelley towards Steve Diggle, who manages to keep the energy levels up with his stage moves throughout the set. They’ve been playing together on and off for the last forty years, and like any relationship that lasts that length of time there are clearly behaviours that are fondly indulged.
The enthusiastic Mancunian crowd know all of the material word perfect, and songs such as Love You More and Promises are perfect examples, with the entire crowd forming an enthusiastic, if not slightly discordant, choir for the ‘woahs’ in the chorus. It’s easy to forget just how many songs that are now viewed as classics the Buzzcocks released in their heyday, their set ends appropriately enough with Times Up, another cut from their debut single, leaving a sweaty crowd baying for more. Of course they return to the stage, Steve Diggle acknowledges the hometown crowd before the Buzzcocks burst into an encore that few bands could hope to match, it is a perfect sequence of four of their best loved singles, What Do I Get, Orgasm Addict, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and finally an extended Harmony In My Head. This ends an almost perfect set and the crowd funnel out of the Albert Hall into the chilly Mancunian night.
Without the Buzzcocks I doubt that punk would be the scene we know and love and today, don’t believe me? look at who’s covered their songs over the years, Anti Flag, The Offspring, Pup, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine and Ash, to name but a few, have all acknowledged their debt to the band. For me the Buzzcocks are the finest band to emerge from Manchester, and this a city that has produced more than it’s fair share of iconic bands over the years, if this is the Buzzcocks final tour then this is a perfect way to bow out, but I sincerely hope that it isn’t their last hurrah. The Buzzcocks 40 tour is still running, and is covering extensive dates across the UK and Europe, and if you can go then you should, Buzzcocks are one of the bands that changed everything and tonight they sounded as good as they ever have.
The Buzzcocks website is here and the tour dates can be viewed here