It’s been forty years since The Undertones burst forth out of Derry, Ireland and onto the world’s airwaves as part of the first wave of UK punk rock. And a bumper Friday night crowd is on hand to greet them with rapturous glee on this momentous occasion, the opening show of their very first ever tour of Australia!
We arrive just in time for support band Shandy’s killer set. The Brisbane bovver boys channel a neat line in so called ‘junk shop glam rock’, mixed with a dash of 70’s punk and power pop, proving to be the perfect warm up for tonight’s esteemed headliners. This evening also serves as the lead in to hulking bassist Viktor Huml’s foray into politics, having recently been anointed as the Greens candidate for Greenslopes in Brisbane. But right now it’s all about the music and Shandy rock hard, tight and alright from the get-go. Shout out loud anthems such as ‘Bish Bosh Bash’ and ‘Dance All Night’ see plenty of Sharpie inspired shape throwing moves from the true believers down the front. It’s hard to take your eyes off animated front man and scene stalwart JJ Speedball, and on the riotous ‘Tough Camp’, the band’s new single, he prowls and poses as the rest of the band lock into a fist pumping groove. The boys are heading over for a European tour in a few months, and you’d be well served to get along to their farewell show at the Stones Corner Hotel on 5 August as part of Bovver Fest. Good times are guaranteed.
After a short break the houselights dim and it’s time for Derry’s finest to regale us with their mind boggling array of spikily melodic delights. It may have taken them decades to get here but the band hit their stride straight up, powering out of the blocks with the 1-2-3 punch of ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘Jump Boys’ and ‘I Got Getta.’ The band are clearly delighted to be on our shores, with broad grins and cheeky anecdotes abounding all night long. Long-time singer Paul McLoone, while very much his own man, does a stellar job in channelling the vocal stylings of original Undertones front-man Feargal Sharkey. His energetic presence and obvious love of the songs that preceded him radiate strongly throughout.
The band prove equally adept at channelling their slightly more introspective numbers, with ‘Love Parade’, ‘Wednesday Week’ and ‘Julie Ocean’ aptly capturing their more wistful, widescreen moments in the live arena. And the fizzy-punk anthems just keep rolling..‘Here Comes The Summer’, ‘It’s Gonna Happen’, ‘You’ve Got My Number’, ‘Runaround’, ‘Can’t Get Over You’ – they’re all here and they all sound just as vital as when you first heard them all those years ago. Inevitably it’s ‘that song’ the eternally magical ‘Teenage Kicks’, followed by an equally rapturous version of ‘True Confessions’, which sends everyone in the room into a frothing lather.
With the band’s love of seminal Brisbane band The Saints playing out in the lead up to the gig, the encore delivers a truly spine tingling moment when original Saints guitarist Ed Kuepper steps on stage to perform with the band on a barnstorming version of classic Saints track ‘This Perfect Day’. Musical history is being made tonight in Brisbane in more ways than one..
The band haven’t finished with us yet though, melting hearts with the top-shelf triumvirate of ‘Top 20’, ‘Male Model’ and ‘My Perfect Cousin’. They even busted out ‘Mars Bars’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’ (again – why the hell not!) as part of an extended encore that just kept on giving. Joyous, triumphant and reverential only go part of the way to capturing the love and energy in the room tonight. Thank you Undertones, now just don’t leave it another 40 years to come back again, ok!?