(review n pix by phil newall)
At last! a decent band playing in Birkenhead, has been a very long time; in fact the last occasion never actually happened, The Council refused permission for The Sex Pistols to play at the long demolished Hamilton Club way back in December 1976, so us locals are long overdue a decent gig. Only downer being that I was forced to miss The Mighty Whites home game v Stockport two miles up the road.
I’d not visited The Pacific Road Arts Centre before, as the best it had previously offered being Wishbone Ash, ABC and a host of covers bands. As with all my recent ‘big name’ gigs, our Greg accompanied me, the Undertones being his fave band – such taste in an 11yr old, top parenting I reckon, though his Mum calls it brainwashing?
Pacific Road is conveniently located yards from Hamilton Square Merseyrail Station, though this was irrelevant as those bastard drivers chose tonight to go on strike! It seemed that this gig was doomed, as drummer Billy Doherty had apparently fallen off his bike and couldn’t play – Is there a curse on B’Head gigs? Having eventually made it I discovered a decent venue and a sell out crowd of 650; however the limited bar seemed only able to cater for half that number. Pacific Road was built as a tram shed many moons ago, so the conversion to venue was done purposefully, and is evident by the ample stage, reasonable light rig etc, and decent clean facilities for the paying punters.
Support was provided by Bob, Bob, Bob and Bob – whose name is a pain in the arse to type. Never heard of ‘them’ before, but apparently they “put the B in B’Head” – to be honest I’d keep quiet about that. Not bad, average punk rock with vaguely amusing lyrics, only heard the last couple so wouldn’t be fair to really judge them.
And then to Derry’s finest son’s, could just refer you to my review from Nov 2004 at Manchester as they were equal to that, but that would be lazy journalism. No; tonight The Undertones stepped out to a packed, eager crowd ready to be transported back to those amphetamine fuelled days at Eric’s in ’78. Did the boys disappoint – no fuckin chance! Awesome once more, opened with ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ and the hits just kept on coming, ‘Family Entertainment’, ‘She’s A Run Around’ and then a few of the later numbers ‘Julie Ocean’, ‘Wednesday Week’ and then they brought us up to date with two tracks, ‘Thrill Me ‘, and ‘ I Need Your Love ‘ from the 2003 ‘Get What You Need ‘ album. The stand in drummer never missed a beat, but John O’Neil repeatedly snapped his guitar strings (That B’Head curse thing again?) but none of that mattered. I said it last time, but it is blatantly obvious that The Undertones really enjoy playing live, and respond to a welcoming crowd, there was plenty of banter from the stage before they launched into ‘Teenage Kicks’ – we’ve all heard it more times than we care to remember but it still has that edge and live it takes on a power of its own, maybe it’s the Peel connection, I couldn’t comment, but you know that rare feeling of euphoria, this song induces exactly that. For the cynics amongst you, who criticise bands like The Undertones as being ‘old hat’ – you couldn’t be any further from the truth, these songs are timeless, their very simplicity is what keeps them fresh and vital some 25 years after they were first written. The legions of American ‘punk’ bands who cite The Undertones as a major influence are testament to this bands vitality.
As the band left the stage to rapturous applause, it was obvious to all that more was to come; they returned with gloriously foolish ‘Mars Bar’, why Mars confectionary never picked that one as its theme? The heightened pace continued with ‘Male Model’, and ‘You’ve Got My Number’ and that was it.
To sum up and stealing a line to do so ‘The Undertones provide three minute punk-pop dreams’ Stunning…
“You thrill me all the time”, McLoone implores on “Thrill Me”–and 25 years, on they still manage to do so.
And as an added bonus The Might Whites gained three points with a goal from local boy Jason McAteer – has the B’Head curse been finally broken? No fuckin way, having collected my photos the only one that came out was of The Bobs, the Undertones all being blank exposures?