The Undertones celebrate 35 years of their debut long player by performing the album in full on their Winter Tour, I caught them The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth….
I can only imagine that somewhere around Jump Boys, drummer Billy Doherty must have been thinking, ‘I wish we had written a bloody ballad!’ such is the pace and ferocity of The Undertones tonight it is exhausting just watching them.
Singer Paul McLoone commands the stage like a feral cross between Morrissey and Johnny Rotten, easily dispelling any lingering thoughts of the other chap who used to sing these songs. As a fan of the first two Undertones albums, particularly the debut, it was always going to be hard not to compare the two, especially as the first half of tonight’s show is a run through of the first album in full.
‘Family Entertainment’, ‘Girls Don’t Like It’ and ‘Male Model’ go by in a blur and as an opening salvo it makes for a breakneck introduction. The Singles ‘Here Comes The Summer’ and ‘Jimmy, Jimmy’ still sound as fresh as ever but it is the album itself that shines through brightest. Playing an album, especially a debut, in full is a brave move; usually there is a weak link somewhere along the line. But as punk/new wave (delete as applicable) goes, The Undertones first really is a timeless example of the power of simplicity.
‘Casbah Rock’ ushers in the second half of the show but the boys are in no mood to let the momentum slip and if anything they move up another gear.
Greeted like a long lost relative, ‘My Perfect Cousin’ gets the front row faithful in a stupor, pogoing with sweaty abandon, many clearly old enough to know better but having scant regard for ageing limbs they throw themselves around wildly. Throughout Paul encourages the throng like a slightly maniacal ring leader, clearly loving every minute of it.
Tonight marked the first time I had ever seen the band live and therefore the first time I had witnessed ‘Teenage Kicks’ performed by the band that actually wrote it. The song has far transgressed the band, covered by virtually every punk rock band at some point it is easy to forget just how good it actually is. Painfully simple but devastatingly effective, tonight it is played as it was written and is breathtakingly fantastic.
Highlights are numerous; ‘Hypnotised’ and ‘There Goes Norman’ remind you that the debut album was no fluke and that the sophomore record hides plenty of gems too and whilst the early part of The Undertones catalogue features heavily this is not an evening purely for the nostalgia trip. ‘Dig Yourself Deep’, title track of their 2007 album sits comfortably alongside any ‘hey day’ release and shows there is still plenty of fire left in the belly, even if it has a little middle age spread for company.
As the night draws to a close Michael Bradley jokes that the band tried to write a ‘selection box’ concept album but only got as far as ‘Mars Bar’. Always a firm fan favourite, it still zips by with youthful exuberance and is a cheeky end to a storming night.
So, celebrating 35 years since the release of that first long player much has changed in those intervening years but one thing remains the same, The Undertones are still marvellous.