Two bands with members that, in one combo or another, have been stalwarts of the punk scene for 40+ years pretty much guarantees that tonight’s gig was going to be one of full on rock n roll packed with plenty of well recognised songs.
Vocalist Eugene Butcher formed the short-lived Desperate Measures in his native New Zealand four decades ago and, having now returned to life in a band, they have finally (not counting compilations) released an album – ‘Rinsed’ (actually a ‘mini album’ would be more appropriate) – full of angry, aggressive songs and messages aimed squarely todays ills – politicians, a messed up society and all the media lies that form a part of it. Opening tonight’s proceedings that anger and full on force of punk rock n roll forms the backbone of their live set. ‘Scars and Memories’ is full of slick guitar riffs while songs such as ‘The Rich-Tual’ and ‘Lost Angels’ are rammed with chugging bass and thumping drums. They revisit the past with ‘1984’ – full of experimental guitar work and Rotten-esque vocals from Butcher whilst recent single ‘Flowers At Your Door’ slows the pace to a less angry, darker, altogether more brooding tempo that brings reminders of mid/late 80’s Cult and Sisters. All the while Butcher radiates energy, completely unable to stand still he pounds round the stage, leans over the crowd, postures at the front arms held aloft like this is the first opportunity he’s had to vent his frustrations at the world. Nine songs and it’s over as they end with a scorching version of The Stooges ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. It’d have been hard to find a better opening act for tonight.
Paul Cook, Sex Pistol, and surely one of punk rock’s greatest drummers formed The Professionals with former partner in crime Steve Jones after the demise of that angry young band which changed the course of musical history and the lives of so many all those years ago. Today The Professionals no longer count Jones as a member but with Tom Spencer having taken over vocal duties prior to 2017 album ‘What In The World’, along with bass player Toshi JC and recent recruit Rich Jones (of Michael Munroe’s band) and a new album ‘SNAFU’ to promote the band remain a serious punk rock force to be reckoned with. Opener, 1981’s classic, ‘Payola’, is everything a gig such as this such this should start with. It tears along full of leap around beats, slicing guitars and sing-a-long chorus. Tonight The Professionals deliver a set that’s not a full on new album promotion. Tonight spans their whole career in a brilliant mix of songs old and new. That Sex Pistols sound – Cook’s drumming and Jones’s guitar work – shines through on ‘The Magnificant’, ‘Kick Down The Doors’, ‘Just Another Dream’ and ‘1 2 3’. All from the first Professionals incarnation they’re fast paced, full of melody and choruses that demand you shout them back. Stepping into the shoes of Pistol Steve Jones can’t have been an easy task but Spencer has filled that gap with ease. Today’s version of the band allows Spencer to add his distinctive, deeper, more gravelly voice over that classic sound. 2017’s ‘Going Going Gone’, ‘Rewind’ and the ferocious ‘Hats Off’ add a harder edge to music that never dates whilst songs from new album SNAFU, such as ‘Easily Lead’ and ‘Heartburn’, skilfully mix the older/new sounds. Of course a Professionals gig wouldn’t be the same without ‘The Great Rock N Roll Swindle’s ‘Silly Thing’ or a cover of ‘Stepping Stone’. What is clear tonight is The Professionals still sound vital, still have songs packed full of hooks and massive choruses. And at the moment they’re a live force to be reckoned with. They don’t plod along. The chemistry between band members is obvious. This isn’t a Paul Cook show. This is a four piece enjoying themselves. There’s playful dance moves, knowing nods and big smiles throughout a gig that not only reminds us of a misspent youth but also reinforces the fact that old rockers should not necessarily leave the scene to make way for the new.
Complete set of photos from this gig can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45038662@N00/albums/72157720104324090?fbclid=IwAR1oteymK5PqE2pzctr_WAR7NdRLTCcvht_1v79remOQHvGqkQu7QlVAz3I