This was the third time I had seen the Buzzcocks. Previous shows had been at Leeds University in 1978, in their heyday, supported by John Cooper Clarke, and in 1994 at the Market Tavern in Kidderminster, a low rent occasion as they attempted to revive their fortunes. For 2014 the Robin in Bilston was a good choice, a 700 capacity purpose designed hall with a proper stage and plenty of bars. Black Country folk know their music and around 400 turned up to see the veterans of Punk once more.
A workmanlike support band failed to announce themselves properly, so I have no idea who they were. But the guitarist looked like Johnny Marr, lead vocalist and guitarist like Ashley from Coronation St, and the bass player resembled golfer Lee Westwood. Imagine what would happen if the three of them got together with a mate playing drums, and you have an idea of what it was like.
These days the Buzzcocks are Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle with Steve Farrant and Chris Remmington on drums and bass respectively. Diggle looked in remarkably good shape, and as ever, was the rabble rousing showman. Shelley, by contrast is now a diminutive, rotund, Papa Smurf look a like with full grey beard. The opening Boredom, once a teenage crie de couer, now teeters dangerously on the ennui of late middle age, with Shelley taciturn and withdrawn, but as the show progressed he relaxed, and the set picked up. If you are a Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd fan, live shows can be high risk, a song you don’t like could last 20 minutes. With he Buzzcocks you are never more than three minutes away from the next one, and they zipped through a lengthy set with style and brio.
The sound was not fantastic, Shelley’s voice was mixed too low, Diggle’s guitar was sometimes barely identifiable and the drums sounded harsh, but that was par for the course with punk gigs anyway. Yes they encored with Ever Fallen in Love, amongst the most perfect pop singles, but eschewed Fast Cars. in an era when original line ups have disappeared in favour of tribute bands it was good to see the Shelley/ Dingle nexus out and enjoying themselves again.