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Don't Buy The Sun - Music Review

John D Hodgkinson watches Clash legend Mick Jones, Pete Wylie, John Power, The Farm, Ian Prowse et al light up the night

Written by . Published on September 26th 2011.

Don't Buy The Sun - Music Review

THE building formerly known as The Locarno looks a little shabby these days. It was originally called The Olympia and, in its glory days, could hold close to 4,000 people.

The cages that once housed lions and elephants can, apparently, still be seen in the basement of the theatre which reopened under its original name in the 1990s.

Wylie commands the stage proceedings like
a post-punk Leonard Sachs. Entreating,
declaiming and stabbing his finger at our
collective chest, making us feel guilty for not Quixotically tilting at the windmills of state

Still, there remains some character within its faded splendour. Many a local couple had their first date there and the place is fondly remembered by previous generations. So, the venue is already invested with an emotional resonance for many.

On this occasion, emotions of a different kind pervade the evening. A large banner with a photograph of murdered teenager Jay McVey smiles from above the stage and banners demanding justice for the victims of Hillsborough flank the auditorium. The evening demands that people join the boycott of The Sun, in addition to publicising campaigns for justice for the 96 and for Jay’s family.

Digsy*The Sums (Pic: Brian Roberts)Digsy bounds onstage fronting his band The Sums. He has always had an innate pop sensibility that dates back to his time with Cook the Books, and The Sums are probably the best band he has had for a long time. With a debut album, If Only, out and songs as strong as Vegetable and the beautifully poignant Nowhere Left But Home, perhaps Digsy’s time will come at last.

Next is The Tea Street Band, about whom I had heard great things.  I was struggling to find a good word for them; I came up with one eventually, but can’t repeat it here. Their sub-New Order dirge just became tedious. Never trust a band that wear guitar straps breast high.

It was when Ian Prowse and friends took to the stage that the passion was cranked up a few notches. Prowse has become a default artist for these events, whether with his band Amsterdam, solo or with a few friends, as here, his ability to communicate transcends venues and audience numbers. The gloriously anthemic Name and Number should be sung by westering homeward-bounders the world over. Raid The Palace and Does This Train Stop on Merseyside all ooze relevance from every pore.

The head bobbing amiable Scouse bonhomie of John Power proves a hugely popular choice and he wonders through pared down versions of Cast’s greatest hits. Sandstorm, Alright and, in particular Walk Away, which has the crowd swaying holding mobile phones aloft in lieu of lighters.

John Power*John Power (Pic: Brian Roberts)There are powerful speeches from local MP Steve Rotherham and, in particular from his West Bromwich East colleague Tom Watson who successfully sued the News International  title for libel. With the scourge of the Murdoch empire on their side, the campaign will surely succeed.

The pervading atmosphere is one of unity and determination and there is none of the edge that can sometimes underpin these nights. Tribal differences are put aside for the good of the cause. The Farm play a short set of their songs: Groovy Train, Mind and Love See No Colour before bringing on Mick Jones and Pete Wylie, accompanied by the latter’s daughter, Mersey, who joins The Farm’s backing singers. If ever a song encapsulated the ethos of the evening, it is surely All Together Now, calling as it does for peace, unity and justice. It can rarely have been more vibrant or held more pertinence than tonight.

Pete Wylie with daughter Mersey, first left*Pete Wylie with daughter
Mersey, first left (Pic: Brian Roberts)
Pete Wylie, self-styled part time rock star, full time legend. Inevitably, he commands the stage proceedings like a post-punk Leonard Sachs. Entreating, declaiming and stabbing his finger at our collective chest, making us feel guilty for not Quixotically tilting at the windmills of state. It’s at times like this we need Wylie most. The songs continue to inspire: Sinful, Come Back and his “party song” The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies all deliver razor sharp barbs that penetrate heart and soul. Then, of course there is Heart As Big As Liverpool, soulful in the true sense of the word and sang with a rare conviction.

All this time the legend that is the Clash’s Mick Jones has been bobbing about centre stage casting an avuncular eye on a generation that he continues to inspire. The familiar intro to Train In Vain tumbles out and audience and musicians are ecstatic. Farm bassist Carl Hunter seems to have been fitted with springs especially for the occasion. Now, there’s a man who knows how to low sling a guitar.

It’s the first time Jones has played Clash songs since the band ditched him in 1983. Armageddon Time, the heart rending Stay Free and, glory be, White Man In Hammersmith Palais.

Peter Hooton And Carl Hunter*The Farm's Peter Hooton and
Carl Hunter (Pic: Brian Roberts)
For Should I Stay Or Should I Go? the band are joined by Hunter’s son Chay Heney, whose own band The Ladykillers would not be out of place on this bill. There is even a place for Big Audio Dynamite’s Rush.  Another impassioned rendition of All Together Now sends the crowd home with renewed hope and a conviction to ensure that justice is delivered.

I wonder if, 30 years ago, Wylie and Hunter ever, in their wildest dreams, imagined that they would one day be on a stage playing Clash songs with Mick Jones at the same time as their then unborn  offspring.  

We have to believe, tonight of all nights.


More images....

...from Brian Roberts can be seen here at his website. Thanks Brian

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TSeptember 26th 2011.

Usual excellent effort John, you have really captured the spirit of Wylie in one paragraph. A formidable feat if I may say so.

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