words: Le Crowley // photos: Andi Callen
BSM was thrilled to witness the infamous Gang Of Four last week as part of their UK tour. The band recently re-issued some of their early works on vinyl and CD including their debut album Entertainment! (1979) and follow up record Solid Gold (1981).
Gang of Four was formed in Leeds in 1976 by bassist Dave Allen, drummer Hugo Burnham, guitarist Andy Gill, and singer Jon King. The band pioneered a style of music that inverted punk’s blunt and explosive energies — favouring tense rhythms, percussive guitars, and lyrics that traded in Marxist theory and situationism. Gill’s untimely death in February 2020 was cause for many to once again re-examine the group’s catalogue and the legacy of these early releases was widely cited. Not only did Gang of Four’s music speak to the generation of musicians, activists, writers, and visual artists that emerged in the group’s immediate wake, but the generation after that. And the generation after that, even. The touring line up consists of guitarist David Pajo, drummer Hugo Burnham, bassist Sara Lee and singer Jon King.
They open with ‘Return the Gift’ from Entertainment! and it sets the tone for all that is to follow. They pour through tracks at a rate of knots, impressive all round considering how long they’ve been at it. Early highlights include ‘Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time’ also from Entertainment! and ‘Paralysed’ which is used to thoroughly decimate a microwave as its played, much to the delight of the enraptured crowd – especially for those who weren’t expecting it! We’re left in suspense for the bigger tracks, the sing-a-long ones, but our patience is rewarded with a beastly quadruple hit from ‘What We All Want’, ‘I Love a Man In Uniform’, ‘At Home He’s a Tourist’ and topping off with ‘Natural’s Not in It’. Looking round the place as these progress with such finesse that you would be hard pushed to find anything different from the original recordings, its clear that Gang of Four are still held in the highest regard. The mix of ages is also incredibly pleasing to see as it gives the sense they are just as, if not more important now, as they were in their peak. The main part of their set closes out with ‘To Hell with Poverty’, a poignant message to all times.
We are treated to a two track encore, ‘Capital (It Fails Us Now)’ is up first and let’s face it, the one the whole room has been waiting for, so arguably the best has been kept for last, ‘Damaged Goods’. A sing a long ensues and they bow out well and truly on a high.
When this tour was announced, there was a collective cheer amongst fans, but also a real hope that it would deliver what was promised. I can only speak for myself, but this was without a doubt one of the best gigs I’ve been too in a very long time, and will take some topping for some time to come.