On paper this tour
was probably the most mouth watering I had seen since Guns N Roses toured with
Faster Pussycat back in the late 80's.
We had Swedish sleaze rock godfathers "Backyard Babies" back on UK soil for their first proper batch of shows (albeit only 4) since "People Like etc" was released. And add to that special guests glam punk rock upstarts "Towers Of London", for a ticket price of under £10, it simply made this a must attend series of shows.
So much so, I decided to do as many of the shows as I could, without taking any time off from the day job (which made it, shall we say, "more interesting").
Oxford Zodiac 20th November
Things got off to a great start in Oxford with an hours pre gig shenanigans in the nearby Hobgoblin public house with "Towers Of London" and fellow Glitziner "Danzai".
Events were already at a suitably excited stage by the time we got to the venue when a somewhat refreshed Donny yelled at me "Lets fucking 'ave it tonight".
For those who have never been, The Zodiac is a great sweaty club gig. That tonight had seemingly been converted into a "Backyard Babies Supermarket". I had never seen so much merchandise, or in fact spent so much money at one single show before. They had everything you could ever imagine or possibly need from signed band photos to Converse booties from playing cards to winter gloves, plus in total about 10 different T-shirts.
In fact I spent so much time trying to work out what the fuck I wasn't going to buy that I completely forgot to watch the last minute addition to the tour, Leeds' punk/pop new boys "The Terminals". Oh well there's always tomorrow, but wait a minute, wasn't that goal keeping legend "Peter Schmeichel" up on stage singing for them?
The Air Raid siren that
signalled the arrival of "Towers Of London" segued into the soon to
be hit single "I'm A Rat" and I took up my residence just in front
of guitarist and ladies man "The Rev". This is for safety sake as
this is normally the best place, away from singer Donny's phlegm and bile assaults
that still frequently pepper the Towers live set.
So, now a full 5 months after the release of debut album "Blood Sweat and Towers" this band is nothing short of revelation live. Gone is the roughness around the edges song wise that sometimes blighted some of their earlier shows and now the band exudes a confidence, and belief in themselves that draws you in and then promptly shits on your chest.
It's just a shame that their record label TVT don't seem to have the same belief . but look at what they did for Nashville Pussy's career eh EXACTLY.
All the older singles/faves were delivered with a total commitment to the cause of "Spunk Rock" (sic, and my trademark lads if you use it) from "Air Guitar" to Fuck It Up", with album cuts such as "Northern Lights" and "Kill The Pop Scene" added to the new set for fuller effect.
Since my epiphany at Reading earlier this year, "Towers Of London" can do no wrong in my eyes. And on the first night of this tour they had just seemingly raised the bar for the headliners, so could "Backyard Babies" respond?
After a few steps forwards
and towards stage centre, I was stood head and shoulders in line with "Nicke
Borg's" mic stand for the start of the "Awesom-o 4000 Eric Cartman-like"
robot voice intro tape that now heralds the "Babies" onto the stage.
The stage that was dressed from wall to wall like a Rock N Roll pirate's cave,
from the skull and crossbones backdrop through to the Kiss police lights. But
strangely right from the off it was evident the band were a little unsettled,
or perhaps dare I say it nervous?
"Nicke" missed the intro into "People Like etc", laughed, and then for the next 4 or 5 songs seemed to simply not click in with the rest of the band. However, by the time "Dregen" took over lead vocal for "Star War", things had started to gain momentum and the rock n roll train crash was now running due course out of control.
The first real oldie of the night "Made Me Madman" heralded the first proper mosh pit of the night and it was at this point that the band was truly back in the UK and delivering the goods.
The set briefly took a tangent from the harder edged rockers for a recently added "Nicke" acoustic slot that saw a tiptop reworking of "Painkiller" run headline into "Roads". At this point it was obvious that "Nicke's" "Social Distortion" tattoo on his neck was not the only influence he chooses to wear from the seminal O.C. punk band.
Drawing the night to close with the superb "Dysfunctional Professional", Nicke asked for the venues air conditioning to be turned off and quoted his good friend "Danko Jones" about looking like you are not working when you're not sweating. Ahh so now I get the slow start.
Returning after a short break the "Backyard Babies" then proceeded to lay waste to a simmering (as the venue suddenly got hotter than hell) "Fill Up This Bad Machine", "UFO Romeo" and "Minus Celsius" the crowd went seemingly mental before we were all left to wonder what the next few nights would bring. Me, I'm off down Cowley Road in search of a Chickenfish.
Dudley JB's 21st November
After around 5 hours kip and a full day at work, I was soon back in the motor and on my way to rendezvous with rock in one of my favourite UK club venues. JB's, not unlike The Zodiac is a proper sweaty club venue, the only small difference being that at JB's you get a great view wherever you stand, partly due I guess, to the 6-foot high stage.
News had been filtering
through all day that "Donny" from "Towers Of London" would
not be playing that nights show due to illness.
But the reason (as I would find out later from "Tommy Brunette") was no doubt a lot more serious than my suggestion that like his Koala bear look-alike "Nigel" from the Disney cartoon "The Wild" "Donny" had maybe got his head stuck in a tin whilst trying to shape his barnet for that nights gig.
So, after a quick half of something wet in the pub opposite JB's, we arrived at the venue just as "The Terminals" were about to finish their set with their debut single track "Dictator" and yet again I had missed the buggers, but at least tonight I had heard enough for me to make a mental note that I would definitely see them before the week was out.
As the Donny-less "Towers
Of London" took to the stage without any intro or larger than life calamity
it was obvious that tonight it was their turn to be nervous.
Between them "Dirk", "Tommy" and "The Rev" coped well on vocals and bundled quickly yet effectively through a much-shuffled up set.
A mate of mine, who is also a fierce critic of the "Towers Of London" was even seen singing their praises by the end of their 40 odd minute set tonight, so they must have done something right.
Me, I was happy to get "Kill The Popscene" dedicated to me, before local punk wiz kid (and mini Donny) Sam from "Wild Youth" went and stole my 3 minutes of glory by joining the band for "Fuck It Up". I swear that some of the guys around me actually thought that it was "Donny" on stage the guy was that good.
Not long after 9:30 came
the "Backyard Babies" Mr Roboto intro, and I really couldn't get any
closer to the band if I wanted (check out the photos for proof).
The skull and crossbones backdrop may have disappeared, replaced by the classic nightclub look of "Total 13" but the set list was exactly the same as the night before. Tonight there was one small difference though, no nervousness and definitely no cock-ups. So a seamless "People Like etc" gave way to a gargantuan sounding "The Clash" and any possible thought back to the first nights slow start was long forgotten.
The kick up the arse performance wise from Oxford was simply staggering, all round the guys were out to destroy. Perhaps it was the lack of air conditioning or the fact that the crowd were a little more subdued making "Backyard Babies" work that bit harder? I don't really know or care because when they are this good they are a world-class band able to obliterate anyone.
When you hear tracks such as "Highlights" and "Look At You" delivered like they were written yesterday and not nearly 10 years ago, you can't help but get involved, and that is just what I, along with most of the dance floor did. Especially, my new mates from "Wild Youth", who sang every fucking word as if it were their last. These kids certainly have a great future ahead of them.
As for "Backyard Babies" .. Well tonight they were the mutts nuts.
Catching up with "Tommy"
and "Snell" after the "Backyard Babies" set they both confirmed
that "Donny" was in fact laid up with a suspected stomach ulcer, and
that they had right up until the last minute considered pulling the show. At
that point one thing struck me long and hard that basically was these guys really
don't realise how good they really are, even without "Donny Tourette".
Manchester Academy 3 22nd November 2006
By 2:00 am on the morning of the 22nd I seem to remember fully realising that if I even attempted to drive to Manchester that night, after working again, I would not be making the London show.
So knowing that "Donny" would again not be making a show at Manchester Academy I accepted defeat and resolved myself to an early night ahead of the tour finale at The Mean Fiddler in London.
London Mean Fiddler 23rd
Arriving in London still only half awake following my previous nights wuss out, I was fashionably early enough to finally see Leeds punk upstarts the bass player less "The Terminals". Taking to a stage already dressed up in "Fuck The Towers of London" backdrops and with what seemed largely borrowed gear The Terminals" battled hard against an indifferent crowd. With a solid blend of "Buzzcocks" meets "XTC" influenced angular punk/pop they certainly had won me over by the end of their extremely short set. Which was unfortunately cut even shorter by an amp short-circuiting just before they were due to play "Dictator". Definitely worth further investigation and for a band that look around 15 years old (sorry is that ageist now???) to produce music as constructive as this means they should be around for some time yet.
Spotting a double pint carrying and fag smoking "Donny Tourette" in the Mean Fiddlers balcony during "The Terminals short set. It was reasonable to assume he was not only well again but his usual "mad for it" self.
And indeed come show time
"Towers Of London" were back in the saddle and ripping up the fast
growing crowd into a frenzy via the previous few nights set of songs albeit
minus "Kill The Popscene".
In all my years of gigs in London this is easily one of the best responses I've ever seen for a support band. Now all their record company needs to do is listen to the "Towers Of London's" song and "Start Believing".
So after a short changeover
and the introduction of the glitter backdrop, it was time for my favourite band
of the last 10 years to deliver the goods in front of a now packed out dance
floor (this was easily the best attended show of the dates I saw).
And deliver they fucking well did. The set list as with the "Towers" was exactly the same as previous nights, but after 3 nights of the same between song ad-libs I was starting to wonder how these guys do this? God, it must get boring knowing exactly what each of you will do and say each night. Anyway, the London crowd loved it and went suitably banana, as did the guest list that heavily adorned the balcony throughout the set. Me? I loved it also but I was perhaps just too tired, more than anything it confirmed my love "Backyard Babies" for what they did for me, and the music I love, back in 1998.
If however this set of gigs had been a football tournament I can honestly say the score would have been as follows:
Backyard Babies 1 - Towers
of London 2
The after show was at "Sin" across the road from the Mean Fiddler hosted by The Hustler Squad ladies, I was invited (thank you ladies for the guest list places), but instead I shuffled back to my hotel feeling my age, with my very pissed off wife in tow who was aled up and wanted to go party.
Waking at 06:00 on the Friday
for meetings in London with work, I remembered an Old "Diamond Dave"
quote about using a flamethrower to burn candles at both ends. And for once
I knew exactly what the old fruit had meant.
by Johnny H.