Gang Of Four @ Le Trabendo, Paris 18.03.11
Le Trabendo is somewhat of a rockers’ haunt here in Paris. Previous bands I have seen perform up here in the modern surroundings of Parc de la Villette include Pulled Apart By Horses [co-incidentally supporting punk patrons, Anti Flag] and last November, the Canadian dOOM queen, Melissa Auf der Maur. It’s therefore not surprising that such a venue championing heavyweights welcomes the might of Gang Of Four as part of their current European tour tonight.
I last saw Gang Of Four headlining in front of a forest backdrop at Offset Festival in 2008 which, thanks to a quick Wiki check, would’ve been the bands first resurgence with all members from their original lineup. Tonight’s show at Le Trabendo sees new members, Mark Heaney and Thomas McNeice, join long standing guitarist Andy Gill and front-man Jon King to make a new Gang. Widely considered as one of the leading bands of the late 70s/early 80s post-punk movement, it’s with some trepidation that I, and no doubt many other fans, come to see this new configuaration of the band. Yet, despite the weighty conundrum of their ability to carry such a title looming over their performance, from the moment the band hit the stage, it is easy to see why they were given it in the first place.
The newly tweaked and polished drum and bass section drive the band’s back catalogue with a new power and force, but it is Gill, for me, who deserves the praise. There is something to be said for a guitarist who, rather than seeing his instrument as an extension of his own manhood or a tool to batter and bruise, plays his with such skill that it is instantly recognisable as being influential upon thousands of bands. There are no wanky digressions or lead fretwork clogging up the song with rock star dirge, just a well executed use of noise vs silence, skill vs sparse. At some points, the weilding held notes and jive bass are not too disimilar to that of The Rapture and thus only confirm Gang Of Four’s pioneering position in the post-punk revival.
The only notable exception to this shining example of ability and grace is Gill’s odd decision to swop guitars mid-set in order to perform some bizaare [and faux] rock angst ritual where he thrusts the neck of the instrument head first into the stage making a shrill cry that sounds more like a pitiful tantrum than a rock epiphany. Hysterics aside, the band’s setlist is flawless as, dapper in suits, they spin out classics like ‘Do As I Say’ and ‘Love Like Anthrax’; the latter of which was considered one of the groups most notorious songs and showcases their ability to convincingly pull off a minute-long intro of, ultimately, droning feedback laced guitar.
New album track, ‘It Was Never Gonna Turn Out Too Good For Me’, shows the band experimenting with new vocal techniques (questionable vocoder), while King’s use of the Melodeon in ‘Why Theory?’ has the slacker cool vibe of an Ian Dury single. For all of their credentials however, the thing that really surprises me about Gang Of Four is how much they have achieved and continue to do so. We are all well aware of the encore tracks that await us (‘Man In Uniform’ and a fantastic rendition of ‘Damaged Goods’) but it’s the plethora of hits that still sound so fucking good so many years on that is a meritable achievement indeed.
There’s not really a need for me to witness the microwave skit again, having seen King deface one three years ago in Hainault forest. One would think he had expressed his outrage enough by now or at least moved on to scold a vacuum or some other appliance. Perhaps, it is a comment on consumerism. Or an act of vitriolic destruction. Either way, Gang Of Four don’t need household appliances or hissy fits to demonstrate their worth in society, King’s intelligent grasp of lyrics and Gill’s guitar innovatism is enough to confirm that this band hasn’t lost any of its explosive edge over the years. And you don’t need a mangled microwave to see that.
Photography (Brisbane): Justin Edwards
For a review closer to home, read Justin’s very enthusiastic report from their Hi-Fi show here.