The Saints + The Tuts @ Zephyr Lounge, Leamington Spa, UK, 27.05.15
By Thom Ryan
Leamington Spa is about as far away from the beach in England as you can get. It just re-elected a Tory MP and sustains itself on the memory of that time Queen Victoria stayed the night in 1838. Having lived most of my life in Brisbane, I didn’t expect to see The Saints in the middle of nowhere. Yet it’s 38 years since the band left Brisbane and 36 since Ed Kuepper left the band, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.
The Tuts opened as well as anyone can open to a crowd of about 50 ageing Englishmen. The girl-punk three-piece blasted through sharp and poppy tunes about patriarchy in the music industry and dumping your boyfriend. Nadia (vox/guitar) and Harriet (bass/vox) played with the audience, asking us forward if we weren’t “afraid of pussy”. During the closing ‘Tut Tut Tut’ the two jumped into the crowd to get everyone “out of their shells”. I can’t say the crowd repaid their energy: “These gigs don’t quench my thirst/Cos all I ever hear is/Ladies, you’re on first“.
The Saints kicked off with ‘King Of The Sun’ from 2012, working backwards through their post-Kuepper catalogue. While the band’s claim to fame has always been the brilliance of those first few albums, the recent songs were perfectly listenable dirty blues jams. The set started wobbling just before 2002’s ‘Waiting For God (Oh!)’. Perhaps used to playing to 45-year-old blokes, Chris suggested what a feat it was for a manly man like him to play country and western. Because those are two words, and only women can multitask.
The band made it through ‘This Perfect Day’ before Chris cracked a joke about queers. With a grin, he apologised and retold it with ‘asexual’ in place of ‘faggot’. Awkward looks in the crowd. Next song there’s a gag about Elton John and someone asks him to tone down the homophobia, another tells him he’s old-fashioned.
When old blokes are confronted with being out of touch they go quiet for a little bit and their eyes get big. It can go one of two ways: they apologise and adjust or pretend that they still get to decide what’s OKand what’s not. Chris Bailey took the second option. Of course he’s not a homophobe, it’s just a joke, get it?
I pissed off at this point. A trickle of others walked out as I waited on the street. I came back in for a few bars of a down-tempo ‘Know Your Product’ but my friends had all had enough as well and we bailed. One of the challengers had copped shit at the bar (he left) and the band was only interested in defending themselves.
Saying that homophobic slurs aren’t OK at a show in 2015 is stupid, because they weren’t OK in 1977. Chris Bailey is younger than Lou Reed, and The Saints released ‘(I’m) Stranded’ as the New York Dolls were dissolving. It’s not that Chris Bailey is a product of his time, it’s that he’s keeping alive hate and prejudice that was dying out before he picked up a guitar. He’s living on the memory of a former greatness that he knows will never come again.