DRUNK N DISORDERLY
WELL, it may well be Christmas and a time of good cheer but there could have been few places more likely to see a bleak mood for the festive season than the wretched Rainbow Theatre, London, last Thursday.
This was the final in a series of three "presentations". The Clash, generally acknowledged as being in the top half dozen nouveau punk bands to emerge in the past 18 months. If this is a fact and if 'this indeed is where 21 years of rock 'n' roll have led us, then let us pray. It would be safer to call it an occurrence rather than a well-ordered concert. My ticket forecast a 7.45 start. Tne first three support bands went on at 8.25 and the Clash eventually appeared at 10.30 - yes, that's two hours, 35 minutes after trie advertised start. No explanation was given, even accepting that rock musicians often display fashionable contempt tor the audience, this was a gross insult to their fans. Bad manners and a lack of professionalism aren't clever. And let's not near any claims that they were busy "getting the sound right " - scarcely a word could be 'heard of their songs throughout their " performance," and the instrument mix was atrocious. Question:- Is it really hip to be this late on stage, so that fans without transport have the show spoiled because they must watch their watches to avoid missin tne last tube or bus home? Such bad organisation or tacit disregard for those who paid for tickets is unforgivable.
Anyone expecting a warm, stimulating experience at this gig should be Branded as an Interloper. The atmosphere among the unsmiling audience of punky headbangers was grim and menacing. And during a full evening's study of facial expressions, I wasn't able to witness one smile. Okay, so the posture of the New Rock Revolution is supposedly serious - but should not part of any rock show be a celebration, a coming together of heroes and believers, resulting in a happily unified buzz? But no, this crowd of drably attired drongos (merely reflected the dire sounds they were there to see). Of course, a few leapt up and down in their seats, emitting the right noises off and registering the right sort of vacuous expressions that said they'd paid to appreciate a night out. For the most part, though, the relationship between the Clash and the crowd never sparked until the end, when the band received the now-mandiatory and thus-meaningless applause and demand for an encore. Generally, the lack of rapport between stage and stalls was astonishing. If the crowd was depressing, the Clash were thoroughly distressing. Touted as something special, the subject of Rolling Stones-type controversy as "The Band That Can't Get A Gig Because Of a Rough Following," and signed by a major record company, the band emerged as musically threadbare, relying on repeating the same tired, speedy riffs to generate a 'bogus excitement, song after song.
Word has it that their lyrics are meaningful and full of the correct kind of 1977 protest. But all was lost in this direction on new ears, because the sound was wicked, the messages inaudible. For all I knew, they could have been singing the innocuous Status Quo songbook - but you could be sure Quo would have done it Infinitely better. And while we're comparing old and new wave, for all their status as part of the "tired old brigade " of old established rock, Quo look, sound, and behave with a certain roguish aplomb. The Clash come across as nothing. Empty posturing with no memorable music to back them up. Musically, they pay no heed to roots and what we have in the Clash is a trumped-up band devoid of style. Their stage magic is nil. A backdrop of pictures of police activity and street scenes is no compensation for an irredeemably awful, monotonous sledgehammer attack in which every tune appears alike and in which an atmosphere of miserable 'aggro is transmitted from the stage to the stalls. The bad vibes had been established during the set by one of the "warm-up" bands, when a security man on stage went to the mike and threatened "a good kicking" to an idiot who had 'been throwing things at the pianist. Chucking things at the stage is dangerous, but the kind of fierce reaction dished out to that stupid person in the stalls was enough to fan the flame into something more serious. Lunatic fringes need careful handling not the insensitivity of head-on collision.
While the appalling Clash were enough to depress anyone with an ounce of appreciation of a rock occasion, their immediate predecessors on stage were by contrast electrifying and utterly convincing. Sham 69 came on like demented street urchins, no posing, most of their incisive lyrics audible, and their whirling dervish of a singer. Jimmy Pursey, flailing around the mike with a cocky sureness of touch that reminded me of early Jagger. For all their rawness and instrumental basics, they worked well, especially bellowing the shrieking insistency of "George Davis Is Innocent" and "Ulster," both of which were preceded by impassioned and patently sincere little speeches by leader Pursey. "This is the best year of my life," he croaked when the crowd accorded him applause. Great! Communication! A young rocker who realises that the music is centred on emotion! Sham 69 brought a touch of class, a sense of The Main Event, to the evening, with their endearing, arrogant charm born so honestly out of inarticulate conviction.
Before them we endured a band composed of Rat Scabies/ Richard Sohl/Keith ILevine, and before them the Lous. Both were unspeakable, and if I say that the least competent entrants in the annual Melody Maker Rock/Folk Contest could probably have blown them off the stage, with the wind in their favour, you may get some idea of what was going on up there. But then, the Clash scarcely equalled the standards of the winners of an MM Contest. Ah, I hear you say In the spirit of '78 - at least they and the others are keeping the roar of street rock alive. Maybe. It's certainly alive, but all's obviously not well. Believe me, the Searchers were better.
- (RAY "SCROOGE" COLEMAN Melody Maker December 24th 1977)
The Pistols were denied US visas today, forcing the cancellation of a planned lightning trip to the USA for an appearance on this Saturdays edition of Saturday Night Live. Meanwhile the band return to the UK from their Dutch tour with another UK tour on the cards.
Hope & Anchor, London
Victoria Hall, Stoke
No12 Club, Lancaster
THE RICH KIDS
Mr Georges, Coventry
Technical College, Uxbridge
Red Cow, London