The heritage trail is one that has become very well travelled in the more recent history of contemporary music. Artist upon ageing artist takes to the reformation road in pursuit of former glories and in an effort to bolster their flagging superannuation fund.
The danger of culture being consumed by nostalgia is one of which Richard Jobson is acutely aware. As lead singer of The Skids – the Scots’ post-punk band who emerged almost fully-fledged from rural Fife in late 1977 – he experienced first-hand their rapid ascent to Top of the Pops’ fame and a continuing, flickering success before their eventual dissolution some five years later.
They first came back together in 2007 for a one-off show to celebrate their 30th anniversary and to commemorate the memory of their original guitarist Stuart Adamson, a man who had gone onto achieve even greater fame with anthemic rockers Big Country but tragically took his own life six years earlier.
A decade on The Skids returned once more, but this time with not only a full tour but also a new album. Released in January of this year, Burning Cities was the band’s first new release in more than 35 years and satisfies Richard Jobson’s strong desire to transport The Skids’ music into the modern age. Given the album’s power, immediacy and lyrical relevance in today’s uncertain and combustible times – these are protest songs located in a world in crisis, much as they were for The Skids forty years earlier – the risks of the band being viewed as just another bunch of end-of-the-pier revivalists who are merely intent on making a quick buck is neatly sidestepped.
During tonight’s show – part of an extensive UK tour that began back in early January at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow and which will finish at the end of this month at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London – Richard Jobson proudly proclaims that Burning Cities made it right up to number 2 in the UK album charts. He was more than slightly miffed, though, that the record was kept off the coveted number 1 slot by that anodyne English pop singer Leo Sayer, a fact that prompts an impromptu, good-natured audience chorus of “Sayer is a wanker”.
For all the earnest intent of his lyrics, Richard Jobson is not a man who takes himself too seriously and is not above pointing gentle ridicule at himself and his fellow band members. At one point he expresses utter and complete surprise that anyone should want to come out and see “a bunch of old wankers”, but tonight’s sold-out show affirms the band’s enduring popularity.
And they do not disappoint. With an energy that belies their advancing years, they tear into a setlist populated by songs both old and new. The coruscating ‘Kings of the New World Order’ (from Burning Cities) confirms their currency and sits very easily alongside older classics like their 1979 single ‘Charade’ (launched into the set just two songs in), a really quite magnificent ‘The Saints Are Coming’, and a closing double-salvo of ‘Masquerade’ and ‘Into The Valley’.
As the band’s original bass guitarist William Simpson strikes up the opening rumble to ‘Into The Valley’ and he is joined by Bruce Watson on guitar on what has to surely be one of the greatest intros in popular music, I am taken right back to 1979 and the Sunday night discos at Newcastle Poly Student Union when upon hearing the song’s opening bars similarly inebriated young men would then pile onto the packed dance floor and, to use the Scots vernacular, ‘gie it laldy’. It is difficult to describe how exhilarating this all felt.
And then to top it all off three encores later, The Skids bid a very fond farewell with ‘TV Stars’. To once more hear the B-side to ‘Into The Valley’ is equally astonishing. And to bear witness to more than three hundred, mostly sweaty middle-aged men belting out the song’s immortal refrain – “Albert Tatlock, Albert Tatlock” (in memory of Ken Barlow’s long-since-gone Uncle Albert on the evergreen British television soap opera Coronation Street) – is bordering upon the surreal. Defying all prior expectations, this was absolutely brilliant.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE