I’ll admit I hadn’t given a lot of thought to Friday night’s Pere Ubu gig in Bristol, and to be honest I’m not sure I would have had particularly high expectations if I had done.
The new record’s a good ‘un, for sure, although it’s one that’s an interesting listen rather than something I’m going to love for years to come. I’d also heard a bit of more recent stuff and can’t say I was particularly grabbed by it. (There was also an uncomfortable incident at Green Man a couple of years back when myself and Coleser had attempted to sneak out early from a book-reading David Thomas was giving and found ourselves berated by an angry, old man from the stage. (In truth, “off the wall” would be a generous description of his prose style – “crap” would be a less forgiving one. An abiding memory of the incident was the “take me with you” looks other audience members were giving us as we slunk off…)
But anyway, here I was again, sipping a Guinness, standing around considering the increasingly down-at-heel surrounds of Thekla, when the big feller traipsed on stage with a clipboard and a pint glass of red wine, with a dubious old-man chic about him, dressed as he was in dumpy trousers, a stained checked shirt, braces and for a while a bright red beret.
He introduced himself uncertainly and started off on an unpromising ramble about the real world and our dreamings. But as soon as his band kicked in, everything was different. I’m not sure who the personnel was (by the end of this piece I’ll go to the trouble to look them up – they deserve it), but I’m pretty sure there are no other original members of Pere Ubu still standing.
Tough, awkward and at times pleasantly aggressive, they trotted purposefully through most of “Lady from Shanghai”, enthusiastically supported by an earnest, if slightly irritating guy whose job it was to muddy the musical waters and wave his arms around a theremin – indeed I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much theremin action in one evening. Images of Blake’s Seven and Doctor Who spring to mind…
After a shaky start, Thomas himself came across as witty, self-deprecating and even amiable as he worked his new material around a few older songs that sounded as good as ever.
It was a great set, far outstripping the ill at ease, difficult evening I might’ve been expecting. To make the evening perfect, he would’ve had to include Chinese Radiation, which would’ve rolled the years back to a callow youth making his first purchase at Gloucester’s long gone (and little-lamented) Backstage Pass. But you can’t have everything, and an evening of tough, knowing post, post-punk was more than enough for this old soak…. First class.
Musicians Are Scum
Oh, and the band…Keith Moline – guitar; Michele Temple – bass; Robert Wheeler – keyboard; Steve Mehlman – drums, and Gagarin (effects)
Very good they were too…