|Sham 69 - London, Camden, Dingwalls - 17th January 2013|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Wednesday, 30 January 2013 03:00|
Dingwalls, that wonderful venue in Camden Lock, is 40 years old this year, having been rocking a few generations since that vintage year of 1973. Tonight’s Play Hard event is the launch of a series of gigs celebrating this momentous anniversary. Four bands are on offer, with the main attraction being, of course, Sham 69, a lot more of whom shortly.
It’s a really eclectic mix of bands on offer tonight with psych pop rockers Where’s Strutter? warming up the early birds first. You call tell this band are from Manchester a mile off, and their fiery energetic set gets the thumbs up. Bibelots may appeal if you like bands that attempt to mix dance beats with guitar driven rock. There’s a bit of baggy retro to them, and perhaps The Killers spring to mind in places, but for me they grow a bit tiresome after a while. The Din actually close the show after Sham’s set, and although their up tempo, folky acoustic Americana is of a high quality, it’s a bit too much of a contrast with what has just come before, which is taking nothing away from their talents. Fair play to all of them, but there’s really only one reason I’m here tonight…
I’ve loved Sham 69 since I was 10 years old. I know this because I still remember a girl at school who had a soft spot for me making the amazing gesture of giving me the page from her copy of Disco 45 magazine (older readers only!) that had the printed lyrics to ‘Hurry Up Harry’, a song she knew I loved, when it was in the singles chart, and that was 1978. Of course at that age I was far too young to even think about going down the pub with Harry, or for that matter seeing Sham 69 live, with their gigs being infamous for being marred by violence. With the original band splitting in 1980 after a string of classic albums and singles, I remained content with those old punk masterpieces on vinyl, knowing that this was one band that would probably remain in the “I wish I could have seen them” category, like The Clash.
All that changed in 2011 when Jimmy Pursey got back together with original ’77 members Dave Tregunna and Dave Parsons. I missed the initial Brixton “comeback” and seethed with jealousy when I read Uber Rock’s Johnny H give his glowing review of the Swindon gig last year. They don’t appear to play too often, but tonight, finally, I get the chance to see three quarters of that classic 70’s line up, and I’m ridiculously excited. Because of the nature of this gig, Sham’s set is a frustratingly short 40 minutes, but it’s forty minutes of pure and perfect punk rock heaven.
For some reason, perhaps the impending snowstorm, it’s not packed here tonight, so I’m able to position myself right in front of the stage, so I can see the whites of Jimmy Pursey’s eyes as the band rip into a personal Sham favourite of mine, ‘What Have We Got?’ What we don’t have is a lot of time, so Jimmy keeps the banter to a minimum as the band simply knock out scorching classic after classic. There’s enough of the Sham faithful here tonight to raise a rousing singalong with every word of the likes of ‘I Don’t Wanna’, ‘Ulster’, ‘Rip Off’, ‘George Davis Is Innocent’, ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ and a pulverising ‘Borstal Breakout’. The more recent ‘Asbo Sports Day’ sounds great, and a new track I’m not familiar with, ‘Stockwell’, is just superb and delivered with the utmost passion. Ultimate anthem ‘If The Kids Are United’ closes the set superbly and brings the house down. There’s just enough time for the band to reappear for an incendiary cover of the Clash’s ‘White Riot’, dedicated to Strummer, before this mind blowing gig is all over far too soon.
Tonight Sham 69 are super-tight, pumped full of energy, and Jimmy Pursey gives a snarling punk rock performance of pure class. Sadly I didn’t get to see them take me back to ’78 with ‘Hurry Up Harry’, but in the short space of time they are given tonight, I see a band deliver a string of some of the finest punk rock songs ever committed to vinyl, with power, honesty and passion. I certainly hope I get a chance to see this band deliver a longer set in the future because as live bands go, I’ve rarely seen better. To be a great rock’n’roll band you need great songs, bundles of energy and an outstanding frontman. Sham 69 has all three in abundance. They are a great rock’n’roll band.
It is possible to have seen your gig of the year by the 17th of January? Quite possibly.
[Live photography by Dutch Michaels]