April 17, 2003, Manchester, UK
Buzzcocks were my favourite band for a while during teenage, somewhere between getting into rockpops bigtime thanks to the Stranglers and the total takeover of WIRE. They might've split up by the time I heard them, but I wore out timeless tapes of Singles Going Steady and Another Music in a Different Kitchen which I replaced with vinyl which in turn wore out. When I finally saw them during an early reformation afternoon festival slot they were so fucking disappointing I mistakenly dismissed them as over the hill. They played a set of lacklustre new songs that seemed to have lost the spark. When The Fall played a free gig in Castlefield Arena, Manchester I sauntered on down to watch Mark E Smith blather on for the quidillionth time and was quite surprised that when Buzzcocks came on after them, they clean blew them back to rockabilly rebel scatter fields with a set of greatest hit adrenaline rush gems. I was even more surprised to find myself leaping about like a kid down the front to "Harmony In My Head" and "I Believe." A lot of folk were probably equally enthused and the Manchester show on their current UK tour sold out. They had everyone in their orgasm addicted palms from the get go charging out with anti-rock anthems "Boredom" and "Fast Cars." The band played a similar set to Castlefield but with a few extra Kitchen classics including "Love Battery" and "Get On Our Own," and a clutch of new songs that suggested that their new eponymous album might not be quite the tedious through the motions affair that the last three were. Some tired old lags have been bitching about this tour being too loud but these guitars should always be set to stun. The interplay between Diggle and Shelley has given us some the finest minutes in pop music and the current rhythm section from old Crass label group Lack of Knowledge can actually pull off a sprint in the Garvey / Maher shoes with energy left to burn. Steve Diggle detractors can suck my dick and die. Diggle looks like he's having the time of his life up there trying to do Who windmills whilst Pete Shelley looks like a pudgey teddy bear with a mess of blond wig and a quick quip every now and then. They're never likely to pull off a record as fun as the first album or as adventurous as the third, but live they're still a whole lot of fun. Maybe the blast was nostalgic, and perhaps it wasn't for an age yet to come, but Buzzcocks have written some of the smartest pop songs ever and they're still best heard live and loud with a bellyfull o'beer. I think I'll go see 'em again at the Empire the day after WIRE let the devil dogs out for Flag Burning