The Boomtown Rats - Fat Sam's, Dundee, Saturday 10 November 2013
Two weeks ago I drove from Edinburgh up to Dundee. Partly this was to give my son a lift to his gig at McDaniels' Bar with the Robin Robertson Blues Band (who have a new album out), but also to see the reformed Boomtown Rats playing at Fat Sam's.
I arrived pretty early so got to see both the support bands. Atom Tan were a very good three-piece doing decent original rock material (though the sound man was asleep at the wheel for much of their set, which was a shame). It's funny though: when I was young, software engineers looked like rock musicians - now rock musicians look like software engineers. Oh, and somebody should tell their guitarist that the whole playing-the-guitar-behind-my-head thing was old hat by about 1975. next up were Ringer, an excellent local band playing covers of 70s hits (sometimes fairly thoroughly reimagined covers). Apparently they appear regularly at shindigs at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and the quality of their Beatles covers explains that. Here Comes The Sun, Getting Better, Good Morning - all fantastic.
Then it was time for the Boomtown Rats themselves. As someone I was chatting to remarked, it's nice to see a reformed group where there isn't a sad gap where some frontman has gone missing (as for example with Yes, currently touring without Jon Anderson or Rick Wakeman). Not only are the Rats all present and correct, but I can happily report that Sir Bob has lost none of the energy and commitment that propelled them up the charts in the first place. OK, he now has the lived-in look of a 62-year-old man, but watching him perform is just like watching him on Top Of The Pops 35 years ago. He came on wearing a kind of plastic suit which he explained was the original fake crocodile-skin suit from back in those days. He described how it had been flung into a wardrobe, and how one day he heard it calling to him to reform the band. "And it still fucking FITS!" he exclaimed. And - amazingly - it does. (Of course, it may have been altered.....but Geldof is pretty lean.)
Musically they were wonderful. There was no sense of going through the motions, just real musicianship and enjoyment. These guys are all older then me, but when they came to play the band's early punk numbers they still sounded just like a punk band, not like a bunch of old guys. Geldof's voice was a bit husky, but then it was always a bit husky: and I hadn't realised he played harmonica until he hauled one out and demonstrated just how well he does play it. As the set continued he dumped the suit jacket:
The band played:
She's Gonna Do You In
Someone's Looking At You
Joey's On The Street Again
I Don't Like Mondays
She's So Modern
Close As You'll Ever Be
When The Night Comes
Mary of the Fourth Form
Looking After Number One
Never Bite The Hand That Feeds
The Boomtown Rats
I gather the band had never played Never Bite The Hand That Feeds live until this tour, where it has been their first encore each night.
Here are the Rats back in the day, with my personal favourite.
Incidentally, while I Don't Like Mondays was famously inspired by a real-life school shooting incident, it hadn't occurred to me that Diamond Smiles was based on any particular suicide. But the staff at Glasgow's Duke Street psychiatric hospital seem to have reckoned otherwise. As I can find no other reference to this anywhere I suspect it's a case of "file under journalistic bullshit", but you never know. (Brenda Spencer's parents successfully got Mondays banned from radio and TV in the USA, which is probably what inspired the Glasgow story.) Anyway, if there was a real-life 'Diamond' she has a fine memorial.