The last time Bob Vylan played Manchester, supporting punk supergroup Generation Sex at the Apollo, it’s no exaggeration when I say they polarised the crowd. Bobby found a pocket of old punks who really didn’t care for his politicising, and let him know in no uncertain terms, exactly what they thought. He playfully offered to meet one particular heckler outside the Ritz tonight, so he could “knock him clean out”! Back in August, at the annual Rebellion Punk Festival, held in Blackpool, he was poking the bear again, pointing out that some old punks had leant to the right more and more as they aged. Again, just by holding a mirror up, he provoked a reaction. The guy from the Apollo obviously didn’t show and tonight’s vibe was definitely one of love and affection.
The band have something in common with both The Jam and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, in that they are introduced by their manager, who asks “What Is Going On?” and encourages the audience to regurgitate the lines, before Bobby (not to be confused with Bobbie, the drummer) bounds on grinning, bedecked in Fred Perry leisurewear, a local Stockport boy made good.
We’re invited, in the time honoured tradition, to do some stretching exercises to limber up for the fun ahead. And then its bigot baiting time with I Heard You Want Your Country Back kicking off proceedings. I’d had a bit of banter with the head of pit security before the gig, about how many crowd surfers they expected over the barrier during the gig. Apparently the previous week they’d had 183 for Sheffield metalcore band Malevolence and he was only expecting 5 t0 10 for Bob Vylan. I told him to worry more about Bobby going the other way himself and so two songs in he’s already in the crowd!
The tone is set and only a small number trickle over during the next 70 minutes or so. The crowd is really mixed and Bobby finds a youngster down the front and makes a fuss of them. “I think Manchester is my favourite city in the whole world, and last month I decided to move here!” The crowd go particularly apeshit at this before he adds, “but I didn’t” to a crescendo of boos. He’s got them in the palm of his hand and when he starts to talk about the issues of the day, the whole place erupts with “fuck the Tories” to the tune of Pigbag’s Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag, so he gives up on whatever he was trying to say and leads them like a conductor, before ripping into Keir Starmer to more cheers. If Labour can get short shrift in the city that lives and breathes socialism, next year’s General Election might not be as cut and dried as people will have you believe. A chant of “Free Palestine” goes up and for a minute or so the music is put into context of our wider lives. This is probably the point where some fans get restless and heckle, but not tonight the whole crowd are enjoying a party atmosphere and they’ve come to have a good time. And surprise surprise, like Cilla Black with dreads the two Bobs deliver. We even get treated to a few tracks from the new LP due in 2024, just to show they’ve been working hard. At some point a pair of boxer shorts makes it onto the stage, after somebody threw a shirt up and Bobby commented that he had yet to receive an item of underwear in his career. Be careful what you wish for mate, especially in Madchester! We’re treated to some pyrotechnics as the set comes to an end with Pretty Song and Wicked & Bad. A one song encore, a cover of Nirvana’s Territorial Pissings, brings the night to an end
The sheer energy of the show is infectious. People don’t merely saunter out into the night at the end, they positively bounce down Whitworth Street. With accolades and awards already under their collective belts, there’s surely many more to come as they give the UK punk scene a blud transfusion! Are they punk? Well on the evidence of tonight and seeing some of Manchester’s faces out tonight, I think that question has been well and truly answered. Value for money, well I certainly got my two Bob’s worth!!!
I Heard You Want Your Country Back
He Sold Guns
We Live Here
He’s A Man
Bait The Bear
The Delicate Nature
Wicked & Bad
Territorial Pissings (Nirvana Cover)