Vic Godard brought the legendary Subway Sect to 81 Renshaw and Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody revelled in a night of punk nostalgia.
It had been a kind of less than energetic weekend and not a jot of Christmas shopping had been achieved, save to buy some stamps for the cards, which have yet to be sent.
Also, it was raining and damp, although, to be fair, not that cold. Nevertheless, not a particularly gig friendly kind of Sunday night. But there was an intriguing draw to 81 Renshaw in the form of Vic Godard and the Subway Sect. We heaved ourselves out of the sofa and headed into town. In the end we were glad we did.
“I do other people’s songs but not the way they do them”, says Ian Jay as he walks on stage alone with an acoustic guitar, points to the empty drum kit behind him and says the name of this band is Rebellious Jukebox.
Kicking off with New Order’s ICB we got what he was about straight away. These are stripped down versions of the originals. He followed up with Magazine’s Permafrost. Whereas that, and most of the other songs in the set are multi layered and textured, the Ian Jay versions bring everything back to the absolute minimum required to get the message across.
The whole thing was surprisingly effective. A covers band this was not, but an intelligent re-work of a series of songs most people in a Vic Godard gig would be familiar with.
We got Mannequin by Wire. A random Monkees moment before the last one. Jay said he would have done a Buzzcocks song, but didn’t feel able. Instead we got The Pixies’ Monkey Gone to Heaven, “dedicated to Pete”. A fine 20 minute set and if you get the chance to see Ian Jay, then do so.
Cargo Cult are a duo (were a trio until the other one pulled out last week) playing their first gig. Not to be confused with the Canadian band of the same name (also a duo), it was a short set (three songs) of decent electronic indie pop from a guitar and bass combo, with tech filling in for the missing one.
That doesn’t damn with faint praise; there were some well worked songs here and some good ideas, with powerful vocals at times.
The room’s getting busy in anticipation of Vic, who is billed as playing with his band, Subway Sect, albeit not the original version. The audience, nearly all “of a certain age” seem to know what to expect, which is probably more than we do, never having seen these punk stalwarts first time round. There appears to be something of an Eric’s reunion going on. It’s all very convivial.
Vic’s CV is impressive, having toured with the Pistols and The Clash back in the day. He earns his money as a postman these days, but dabbles in art and painting, recently having exhibited at The International Print Biennale in Newcastle
Openers Watching The Devil and Double Negative set the tone. As with many bands kicking around in the late 70s, this is more bar room blues than punk, but that’s fine. There’s more in common with Eddie & The Hot Rods and Dr Feelgood than the traditional notion of punk.
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Early single The One That Got Away got an airing – “Available on a CD over at the merch stand at a haggleable price”. It’s a catchy three minute pop punk tune that had more than a few feet tapping and heads bobbing. Happily, this is an audience that has well grown out of spitting and pogoing.
The vibe is no less for that. The songs are raw, unpolished gems, but played tightly and flawlessly.
Vic knows how to keep an audience engaged, both with the quality of the set list from his pretty extensive back catalogue as well as the in between song chat – even if he did call Liverpool a “nice town”. It wasn’t but a second before he was corrected.
We were reminded of Peter Perrett’s Only Ones in parts of the set. The slightly off key delivery is similar, especially in numbers like Gold Digging, but these technical flaws don’t really matter. This is a man who picked up a guitar and formed a band. And it’s great.
New number, Time Should Have Made A Man Out Of Me was a thumping stomp of a rallying cry, presumably to the view that you’re never ready to be an adult. Especially if you’re a musician. It reminds us of that quote on the wall at The Jac which says “When I grow up I wanna be a musician. Son, you can’t do both”.
There’s time for one more before we head off into the rain to grab a cab. It’s a Sunday night and this feels like a guilty pleasure when we have an early start in the morning. But it was worth it. 40 years on, there are plenty of the old punk bands still gigging to a greater or lesser effect. Vic’s still got it. Ace.
Images by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody