It’s a very hot summers night in Leeds, and as The Membranes take the stage, it’s clear from the off that the temperature is set to carry on rising. Opening number, “The Universe Explodes Into a Billion Photons of Pure White Light”, initially takes a few of the crowd by surprise. Taken from the bands recently released “Dark Matter/Dark Energy”, it’s a marked change in direction from the bands earlier releases. But hey, it’s been 26 years since they last committed anything to record. It’s almost drone like intro gradually builds, and builds to a level of finely orchestrated chaos that has everyone entranced and leads nicely into another new number,“Do The Supernova”. A raucous affair, that lays down the bands intent and gets the place rocking with ease.
Right from the word go, John Robb prowls the stage like the swaggering archetypal punk rocker. Between songs he talks to the crowd, egging them on and transferring the vitality of his stage persona to every corner of the room. Darting from left to right, back and forth constantly switching from the slightly menacing to the casually humorous, it’s an engaging act that is far from pastiche. The Membranes may be “unapologetic, middle aged, fucked up…” but this is post-punk pageantry in all its glory. They’re playing the music they always wanted to play and it’s as slick, and pertinent as anything spewed out by bands more than half their age.
Yes there’s the odd nod back to the back catalogue – “Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder” is well received – but tonight is anything but a retrospective celebration. Dark Energy/Dark Matter is the bands come-back album and its live rendition is a glorious return. “The Hum of the Universe” has Robb encouraging the crowd in a sing-a-long, which successfully receives the accolade it deserves.
Energy levels are high throughout the set, not least from the enigmatic frontman. “This is the point where the set officially closes” claims Robb, but he’s having a good time, his band are having a good time and the punters are obviously up for some more, so they carry on. Support act, Evil Blizzard, are invited back onstage. There’s a pregnant pause as it appears that most of them have either left or at least de-masked * – Robb takes this in his stride proclaiming “Well, that was a bit of anti-climax!” and makes a joke of it. Eventually, only one of their crew is able to join the fray and a full scale bass laden riot ensues.
The climax of the night has Robb leaving the stage to join the crowd. It’s been hot, it’s been sweaty, but it’s been a great night. If reviews are anything to go by, Dark Energy/Dark matter looks set to be one of the albums of the year, and on tonight’s performance, The Membranes live are definitely set to be one of the must see acts of 2015 and beyond.
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