After an exemplary performance from a 70’s punk/ New Wave predominantly singles-oriented band last time out in SpizzEnergi, here’s another one! This time it’s the Boomtown Rats again, and also for the first time… I’d seen and thoroughly enjoyed a performance by a 4-piece trading under that name but featuring only 2 of the original Rats (namely guitarist Garry Roberts and drummer Simon Crowe), at Swindon’s MECA a couple of years back (gig 839) but this time those two have been joined by original bassist Pete Briquette and, more importantly, frontman Bob Geldof, in a fuller and more tantalising Rats reunion. So I’m there!
So, I headed off down the M4 – thankfully not too badly affected by the aftermath of the Saint Jude’s day storm – parking on the roof of Trenchard car park and wandering down about 8 pm. It was quiet outside, which I took as a cue that this wouldn’t be a busy one – wrong-o, as everyone was already in, and the place was rammed! Patrik Fitzgerald, a tousle-haired Irish punk rock troubadour of similar vintage to the headliners, was onstage playing some acoustic stuff and nonsense, coming across like Billy Bragg’s older and more bored Irish cousin, with titles like “There’s Nothing To Do” and “Inside Me There’s Nothing”, and as dour a delivery as the subject matter. A final number suggesting who’d start the next revolution was an odd juxtaposition, given the air of ennui and resignation exuded by this performance. Sorry Patrik. Yawn.
Weedled my way through the packed crowd of old punk lags and their lasses, down to something equating to my usual stage-left spot, for the Rats’ arrival prompt at 9. Preceded by a backdrop film featuring the Rats then-and-now, the band back rows ambled onstage through the copious dry ice. Then suddenly Bob was there – bursting rapier-like through the murk, grabbing the mic and kicking off the opening harmonies of set opener, the sublime, sprawling epic “(I Never Loved) Eva Braun”. Still rock-star thin, imposing grey mane in place and looking every day of his (only?) 62 years, he nevertheless was the focal point of the Rat attack throughout. Initially lurching languidly around, as the band took their time to settle in, it took a superb “Someone’s Looking At You” for his performance to morph into a confident Jagger-esque strut and swagger, an excellent rendition of this underrated number being preceded by an audience call-and-response about his, “fuck-off mega plastic snakeskin suit,” which led into a story of said suit’s pivotal role in this Rats reunion, and then into an impassioned and topical diatribe against Big Brother-ism. Man has a lot to say…
The languid cod-reggae of a better than feared “Banana Republic” was preceded by the voluble Geldof commenting about how this song got them banned from their own Country for its’ pointed attack (“one disadvantage of growing old is that you’re often proven right”), before an explosive “She’s So Modern” cranked up the punk rock electric guitar. A brilliant, singalong and thankfully piano-led “I Don’t Like Mondays” was a subsequent set highlight, also featuring a mid-song pregnant pause before the soaring and affecting climax, Geldof conducting the crowd with relish.
A frantic “Looking After Number One” preceded set closer, the inevitable “Rat Trap”, their sprawling epic depicting the struggles of the common man, and another set highlight. Bob had earlier preceded their jerky “Neon Heart” with, “we’re thinking about Lou Reed tonight – this is from when we were trying to be the Velvet Underground back in 1976,” so it was also a nice touch that they kicked off their encores with a messy, uneven but heartfelt version of Lou’s garage rock classic “White Light/ White Heat”, Bob again giving an impassioned speech about the former Velvets leader and pivotal rock’n’roll figure, lost to us over the weekend.
A lengthy “Diamond Smiles” closed the encore, at which point the band took a prolonged curtain call, before returning for an odd techno chant of “Boomtown Rats!”, the boys clearly having fun with this rather puzzling final number. Nevertheless, this was once again a totally entertaining show from The Rats, Bob Geldof providing the star quality with a riveting and energetic performance belying his years. And on this evidence, long may the Rats rally!