Saturday, 14 February 2009

"I am angry, I am ill and I'm as ugly as sin..."

My irritability keeps me alive and kicking
I know the meaning of life, it doesnt help me a bit
I know beauty and I know a good thing when I see it

This is a song from under the floorboards
This is a song from where the wall is cracked
My force of habit, I am an insect
I have to confess I'm proud as hell of that fact

I know the highest and the best
I accord them all due respect
But the brightest jewel inside of me
Glows with pleasure at my own stupidity

I used to make phantoms I could later chase
Images of all that could be desired
Then I got tired of counting all of these blessings
And then I just got tired

I went to a proper gig last night. My first for, ooh, about 14 years. But before we discuss this, let's put this into some sort of perspective.

My teens and twenties (mostly the 1980s) were obsessed with music - I wrote it, I sang, I played saxophone, I recorded in a big famous London studio, I recorded a demo tape with Dave Fenton (the lead singer and writer with The Vapors, of 'Turning Japanese' fame), I played on stage with various bands in London and the south of England, I even busked on the streets of Brighton and Guildford, a single was self-financed and released. I met my first husband, The Artist, when my band, Matrix, supported his band, Disruptive Patterns, at a local gig venue in Guildford in 1981.

Anyway, I moved in with The Artist and we eventually married in 1985. Local bands were thick on the ground in Guildford in the mid-80s, it was a really good time to be making your own music. The Civic Hall was host to some major gigs during this period so you didn't have to go up to London to see them - they came to us! But we still trolleyed off up to the smoke to see bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Simple Minds (when they were good, before they became all pompous and stadium), The Cramps, Echo and the Bunnymen, Killing Joke, and those are just the ones I can remember at the moment.

But one of my favourite bands at the time was Magazine. Their heyday was from about 1978 to the very early 1980s and they didn't gig a lot. They'd more or less split by the time I was introduced to their music by The Artist, but, over the years, I have found myself returning to their three albums - 'Real Life', 'Secondhand Daylight' and 'The Correct Use of Soap' - and dancing around the room. So I never saw them play.

Then, in July 2008, it was announced that Magazine would be reforming to perform a handful of gigs in February 2009. I nearly exploded with delight! Tickets were duly purchased for the one solitary gig in London (the others are Oop North) that they would be doing - Friday 13 February at The Forum in Kentish Town.

Demand for tickets was so great that an extra date was announced for Thursday 12 February and two friends of mine got tickets for that one. I called one of them, S, during Friday afternoon to ask how the gig went. "It was completely brilliant. The audience was all old so it was very polite! Some had even brought their kids", he reported. "They played everything, so it was great".

The Husband and I got to the Forum at about 8pm in time for the support band, an all-girl, semi-goth band called Ipso Facto. I thought they were pretty good but, as ever with a support band, everyone's come to see the headliners so the applause was polite (as befits the audience demographic) rather than wild.

The audience - ah, well, what can I say? I texted S from the gig (I apologise in advance for the teenage txtspk):

Me: "U r quite right about it being a gig 4 oldies!"

S: "Do we really look that old too?"

Me: "Sadly, yes, old, fat + grey".

There was even a section set aside for disabled punters, right next to the mixing desk. I thought this was rather fabulous, actually, especially as one chap in a wheelchair with walking sticks started waving them around in the air and, at one point, even got up out of his wheelchair and stood - huzzah! It's a miracle!! But, in the days when I used to go to lots of gigs, this kind of access was just not considered. Also it really was much more pleasant not to be breathing in secondhand cigarette smoke. I know this kind of goes against the images of gigs, where large crowds of people get very hot and sweaty while dancing in the dark to deafening music while toking on large spliffs and I do sort of miss that, but not the stink of it on your clothes and hair later. Hmm, perhaps I am getting old after all.

The crowd were really our age, mid to late 40s, greying hair, pot bellies, wrinkles and glasses. After the support band finished, The Husband opined that it would have been good to have had a sit down on a comfy chair in between the bands, perhaps also enjoying a nice cup of tea, and I knew EXACTLY what he meant! But we had to stand - I had forgotten the inordinate quantity of standing involved at gigs - until my back started to ache and I lost the feeling in my little toes on each foot!

But, goddamn, it was worth it. Magazine came on and the audience erupted, even though Howard Devoto no longer looks like some kind of skinny insect but rather more like Donald Pleasance, and much shorter than I realised. They played 'The Light Pours Out of Me' and the audience went menkle. It was better than I imagined it could have been, for a bunch of old men, they truly knew how to rock. The applause at the end of the first song was ecstatic and did not stop.

In case there are any other hardcore Magazine fans out there reading this, the set list was:

*The Light Pours Out of Me
*Model Worker (with Obama reference)
*Great Beautician In The Sky /The Honeymoon Killers (medley)
*Because You're Frightened
*You Never Knew Me
*Rhythm of Cruelty
*I Want To burn Again
*This Poison
*A Song from Under the Floorboards
*The Book
*Twenty Years Ago/Definitive Gaze (medley)
*Shot By Both Sides
*Thank You (fallentime...)
2nd encore:
*I Love You You Big Dummy

Magazine were very influential and should have been far bigger than they were. Say 'Magazine' to most people of our age and many of them, at least those that don't respond 'eh? You what?' will say, 'Oh yeah, they did "Shot By Both Sides", didn't they? Loved that single'. They also wrote the best opening line of any song ever, which is the title of this posting and comes from 'A Song from under the floorboards'.

I've been very saddened in recent years by the reforming and touring of old punk bands such as the Sex Pistols which is an obviously cynical ploy to milk money. The Magazine gig didn't feel like that, it was a genuine celebration of a band that was literate, talented and wrote damn catchy tunes.

So here, for your delectation, from Youtube is an admittedly fairly ropey video of Magazine performing 'The Light Pours Out of Me' at The Forum on Thursday 12 February 2009, for all those who weren't there....

Magazine - The Light Pours Out of Me


Anonymous said...

Good write up. I was there last night - yeah I'm in my late forties but I actually felt old compared to a lot of the audience around me (near the mixing desk).

Great gig, never saw them live before but well worth seeing. And it didn't feel like a money making venture - though they hopefully topped up their pension funds a bit.

Barry Adamason was awesome on bass and Noko did a brilliant job on guitar in place of the late, great John McGeogh. Devoto can't sinfg for toffee but is a wonderful front man - mesmerising at times.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't there on Thursday, but sounds like Friday was more exciting as I wouldn't describe it as "polite". It's one of the wildest gigs I've been to recently and taken the average age of the audience there was a decent amount of pogoing for such an old crowd.

Great strong sound with proper skull-shaking bass, Howard on great form, perfect size venue. 5 star gig.