I absolutely must open this review with at least a soupcon of hero worship for Steve “I wanna hear you blow the f***ing roof off!” Diggle. At the not so tender age of 61, still has the rapid-fire punk energy coursing through his Mancunian veins. Shredding with youthful exuberance on his guitar, throughout the gig, you could be mistaken for thinking it were 1978 at the Manchester Apollo, as Diggle screams that classic punk refrain: ‘Mad, Mad Judy!’ Lead singer/Guitarist Pete Shelley is his usual stolid self on stage, although now rather more rotund than in the bands halcyon days, but, fair play, he too can still keep step with a 27-song tornado of pure punk rip-roaring power pop that ensues.
Upon sauntering to the stage, the band rip into ‘Fast Cars’ and the crowd immediately rain beer on the chaotic circles of arms legs and banging heads that opened up as effortlessly as a tin of Heinz baked beans. Before you’ve even blinked Pete wails ‘My mad love battery – wants to charge you!!!!’ and we’re already into the second number of this Paris-based punk cyclone with the energy from the crowd gathering a scathing velocity, but the mosh pit does not truly erupt until the thumping drum introduces the power-pop anthem of ‘Orgasm Addict’ – the first single released by the band 40 years ago. I have been to many rock gigs, but this is the first time I have watched a group of near-pension age blokes whip up such a storming, body-slamming orgy of…well, near pension-age blokes! Until they perfect time travel, this raw three-chord Punk rock detonation is the closest you will ever get to visit, or re-visit, the 1970s Punk scene.
And while glimpsing a 90-minute sojourn into 70s Britain, via Paris, to celebrate 40 years since Buzzcocks’ first E.P (‘Spiral Scratch’) and debut single release, I bumped into another historical figure of note among the leaves of the Adshead family tree: my 17-year-old father (or rather, my 55-year-old dad thinking he is 17). I had never laid eyes on a man so giddy in excitement to see the favourite band of his youth, even more unexpected that the pogoing, sweaty body-slamming oaf was my, usually poised and inscrutable, old man. As the band tore through its back catalogue, like a punk freight train, Maurice Adshead sufficiently dealt with every other would-be mosher, like a schizophrenic bear pitted against a motley assortment of mildly manic bears. The whirlwind of sweaty bodies was reaching peak carnage by the time the pop-rock crafted ‘Promises’ was ejected from the stage by Diggle’s buzz-rattled guitar. Howls of “oh-Oooh!” requited by the 800-strong crowd to Pete Shelley’s call of “These promises!..Are made for us…!”
The nostalgia from portions of the crowd, who are old enough to remember the band in their heyday, feverishly palpable. Much of the perspiration spattering across my person is being violently beaten off the brows of the age-45+ by their generational peers in the now beer-sodden and sticky mosh pit. However, the audience, as a whole, is inspirationally a rich mix of age and gender: probably 60% were under 40. While the young and old revel, together, in the phonic delights of one of Punk’s essential pioneers, Steve Diggle, during various points throughout the gig, brings his guitar slaying right up to the sweat-glistening, hot faces of those up front, posing for the ubiquitous camera phone shots and uproariously plastering high-fives and fist bumps to any outstretched limb. It is undeniable that the band still take great pleasure in playing to crowds, and while the old and new still yearn for Punk’s bygone days, Buzzcocks won’t have to lock away their plectrums in the memory box anytime soon. Punk is not dead, but it certainly smells…musty.
Before the band finally exit the stage, the crowd are propelled to nuclear heights with blood vessels throbbing and feet bounding to the unrivalled punk anthems “What Do I Get?” and “Ever Fallen in Love With Someone” – hell of a way to ‘wind down’ a set. The beer-stained floor has barely begun to rot the soles of my ill-chosen shoes before the band return to the stage to a flurry of cheers and applause for 3-song encore that climaxes in a drunken mob pub style sing-a-long to the chorus of “Boredom! Boredoooom!”. Needless to say, the band left us in a state of anything but.