Buzzcocks prove themselves popsters at reunion show
The Living Room, Providence,
Rhode Island, November 7.
By DAVID STERN
"I T'S BEEN A LONG TIME since I rock and rolled," Pete Shelley announced as he took the stage for the first concert of the Buzzcocks' reunion tour. It's been nine years since their last gig, and this concert was interesting for many reasons. The Buzzcocks made it apparent that they were not a punk band, despite the fact that they emerged from the England underground in 1977 and that Tuesday's show attracted a violent audience. Above all else, Shelley looked amused at the audience's response since The Buzzcocks, 10 years later, have proved themselves more romantic up-tempo popsters than punkers.
"All the hits," guitarist Steve Diggle stated, and it was true. All of their songs are "hits" in that they are almost exclusively short, catchy pop songs (although none that I know of has made the top 40). The band played most of their hits, except for "Orgasm Addict." Their performances sounded exactly like their records, not necessarily a bad thing considering their records have a very live sound. The tempos were the same as the records, some even a little slower, but it would have been nice if they had done some songs faster, as the Ramones tend to do. On the other hand, Buzzcocks songs have a sincerity to them that might have been risked being lost if their songs had been changed around too much. The musicianship of the group was excellent, and they showed a lot of energy on stage. They could certainly outplay most garage pop and punk groups around today.
The audience was having a good time for the whole show. Everyone sang along to the choruses of "i don't mind" and the "oh-oh-oh"s of "what do i get?" One enthusiastic fan even jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone from Shelley during the chorus of "promises." Seeing as the fan knew all the words and sang somewhat in tune, Shelley told the bouncer to let him stay on stage. The two of them shared the mike for the next verse and chorus, before Shelley politely applauded the guest singer and reclaimed the mike.
Although most of the performances matched the record, there were two particularly energetic ones. The first was "harmony in my head" which showed that Diggle's voice has actually improved over the years. The second was a most excellent, overdriven rendition of "oh shit!" for the encore.
Throughout the show there were absolutely no stage antics, no "Hello, America." The band looked wholly natural and comfortable and seemed to enjoy themselves on stage. Their amusement at the enthusiasm of the slam- and pogo-dancing audience contrasts with most punk bands, which either appear removed from their audience, or actively encourage or even participate in the audience's aggression.
Although the evening was an opportunity for those fans who never saw the band before their breakup to see them, the Buzzcocks did nothing new or shocking, and while their music is timeless, it doesn't have quite the novelty it must have had 10 years ago. It doesn't seem from my impressions that they will be making any new records. As one fan said, "It was nice of them to do this tour, but it wouldn't be right for them to do another one." One gets the feeling that another tour or another record would be a nostalgic attempt, `a la Beach Boys, to relive the past. Hopefully, the band members will move on and keep playing.