By John Curley
Despite having celebrated their 40th anniversary last year, Manchester rock legends Buzzcocks still seem fresh and new. This might be down to the frenetic pace at which they deliver one tune after another at their live shows, barely pausing for breath between songs. Or it could be their fantastic back catalog of hook-laden, power-pop classics. Whatever the reason, a Buzzcocks show is not a wallow in nostalgia. Rather, it is an exciting and explosive experience that never disappoints. And that is why, show after show, the band has to remain onstage for a few minutes after the end of their performances to properly acknowledge the thunderous cheers raining down on them from their appreciative audiences. Their spectacular show at Webster Hall in New York City on Friday, June 9th was no exception.
The show featured support sets from two Brooklyn-based bands, Stuyedeyed and The So So Glos. Stuyedeyed went on somewhat early, at 7:45 p.m. Since I was unfortunately delayed in getting to the venue, I missed their set completely. I arrived just as The So So Glos took the stage for their 30-minute set. They did not disappoint, performing a hard-rocking set of edgy rock and power pop. Their three-guitar attack was quite impressive, and their songs have an anthemic feel that is quite crowd pleasing. They received a huge cheer from the audience at the conclusion of their set and are definitely a band worth checking out.
Buzzcocks’ current lineup of Pete Shelley (vocals, guitar), Steve Diggle (guitar, vocals), Chris Remington (bass), and Danny Farrant (drums) have performed and recorded together since 2008, and are like a well-oiled machine in concert. Diggle is the showman of the band, bashing out power chords and striking rock-star poses. Shelley anchors the band at center stage. Farrant’s crisp, machine-gun-like drumming provides a power that not many live bands can match. And Remington’s solid playing provides the foundation on which the songs grow and explode into life.
Buzzcocks wasted no time once they took the stage, ripping into an intense version of “Fast Cars” that had the packed house cheering. They then tore right into “Love Battery” and then segued into a phenomenal version of “Orgasm Addict” that featured Shelley’s snarky vocals and Diggle’s fantastic guitar work. Diggle was striking poses throughout the song and repeatedly egging on the crowd.
Other highlights of the first part of the main set included: Farrant’s phenomenal drumming on “Lester Sands (Drop In The Ocean)”; Diggle’s guitar work on a fantastic version of “Autonomy”; Shelley’s playing during the guitar break in “Get On Your Own”; the vocals of Shelley and Diggle on the crowd-pleasing “Why She’s A Girl From The Chainstore”; and the spectacular “Why Can’t I Touch It?” that had many in the crowd bouncing up and down.
As the main set neared its conclusion, the band pulled out one power-pop classic after another that drove the crowd into a frenzy. The mosh pit on the floor in front of the stage started to grow and get quite active during a killer version of “I Don’t Mind.” The crowd’s involvement only increased as the band ripped into an extended “Sick City Sometimes” that featured Diggle on lead vocals and rock-star poses. Diggle also took lead-vocal duties on the next song, an incendiary “Mad Mad Judy.” They followed that with a terrific “You Say You Don’t Love Me” that had the crowd roaring. The audience seemed to take over backing-vocal duties on “Love You More,” singing the “oh oh ohhhh” bit as the band tore through the song onstage. A frenetic “Noise Annoys” made the mosh pit grow in both participants and intensity. An amazing “Promises” had the crowd roaring as a few audience members decided to do some crowd surfing. The main set concluded with Diggle’s showcase song, an extended “Harmony In My Head” that made the mosh pit even more active. In the middle of the song, Diggle stalked the stage, carrying the mic stand on his shoulder, pointing his microphone at the crowd, and imploring them to sing along. The crowd cheered loudly as the band left the stage briefly before the start of the encore.
The four-song encore started with a great “Breakdown” that the audience cheered. An intense “Boredom” followed that got the crowd really fired up. A frenetic “What Do I Get?” led to a ferocious intensity in the mosh pit and also had the crowd roaring the backing vocal. And the show came to a thunderous conclusion with an incredible version of their biggest hit, “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” that had the mosh pit tearing it up. The New York crowd showed their appreciation by cheering for a solid two minutes after the encore ended as the band remained onstage to soak up the adulation and appreciation from the crowd for what had been a fantastic performance.
Buzzcocks are performing in Asbury Park, NJ on Sunday, June 11th. After a festival date in Serbia on Thursday, June 22nd, they return to the USA for two shows in West Hollywood, CA on Thursday, June 29th and Friday, June 30th as well as a concert in Oakland, CA on Sunday, July 2nd. Full tour dates can be found at http://www.buzzcocks.com/site/livedates.html.
Buzzcocks’ setlist at Webster Hall was as follows:
What Ever Happened To?
Lester Sands (Drop In The Ocean)
Get On Your Own
Why She’s A Girl From The Chainstore
Why Can’t I Touch It?
I Don’t Mind
Sick City Sometimes
Mad Mad Judy
You Say You Don’t Love Me
Love You More
Harmony In My Head
What Do I Get?
Even Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)