|Angelic Upstarts – Camden, The Underworld – 7 March 2017|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Sunday, 16 April 2017 04:30|
Whilst last year marked the 40th anniversary of the birth of punk, there’s plenty of punk stalwarts who formed in 1977 celebrating their 40th this year. Recently I saw Belfast’s finest SLF on their 40th anniversary tour, and tonight it’s the turn of South Shields’ finest Angelic Upstarts, led by the inimitable Thomas ‘Mensi’ Mensforth.
Mensi remains the only original member left in the band from those early days 40 years ago, but the current line-up packs a powerful punch. Tonight sees Heavy Metal Kids drummer Keith Boyce guesting, as he sometimes does with the Upstarts.
Weekend gigs here have to finish early due to the club afterwards, so the Upstarts have to cram as much as they can into an hour and a quarter’s set. There’s no shortage of the old stuff, with the likes of ‘You’re Nicked’, ‘Last Night Another Soldier’, ‘Solidarity’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’ delivered with punked up politically charged venom. ‘Police Oppression’ actually gets performed twice. Due to a guitar malfunction, the band forge ahead without it, only to play the whole song again when the guitar is restored.
Mensi gets slightly riled at one point in the set by a bizarre heckler who tells him he should ‘get back to his roots’. There aren’t many punk frontmen who have stuck more to their roots than our Mensi, and musical proof of that is 2015’s superb ‘Bullingdon Bastards’ album. There aren’t many 40 year old punk bands I’d go and see these days where I hope to hear a fair few off of their latest album, but that is certainly the case with the Upstarts such was the strength of that album. The anthemic ‘Tories Tories Tories (Out Out Out)’ and ‘Give The Fox A Gun’ prove that the Upstarts can still come up with a quality tune and have far from abandoned their politically charged left wing roots.
It’s probably fair to say that the Angelic Upstarts are still best known for their first three singles, and they tear through ferocious versions of ‘Teenage Warning’, ‘I’m An Upstart’ and ‘The Murder Of Liddle Towers’ with energy defying their years. They’re three of the finest punk singles of the era in my book. With quality tunes like that in the set, I must admit I’m slightly miffed that it takes a cover of a Sham 69 song– ‘If The Kids Are United’ – for the crowd to go truly mental. And mental they go, with a full chaotic stage invasion ensuing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song, but the night should be remembered for the great songs the Upstarts have had over their 40 years.
Tonight’s gig may have had a few technical hitches and bizarre heckles, but thanks to the Underworld’s superbly loud sound system, this was a top quality Upstarts gig, one of the best I’ve seen. Mensi was in fine form, with his self-deprecating humour making him the loveable rogue he is, and Newts Newton’s impressive guitar work adding some real cutting edge. 40 years on, long may the Upstarts continue!
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