Gang of Four, Japanese Voyeurs
Anthony Page 26/09/2009
Gang Of Four are one of the most influential British bands of all time, which makes the fact that they are unknown to a large number of music fans baffling. Tonight's show was to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of their debut album, and masterpiece, Entertainment. The influence of Gang Of Four and Entertainment in particular can be heard in bands such as Public Image Limited, Bloc Party, Radio 4, Young Knives and The Futureheads, the latter whomin fact had Andy Gill, Gang Of Four guitarist, as one of their early producers. The influence and importance of Gang Of Four cannot be doubted, but 30 years on, can they still cut it as a live force?
The answer to that is an emphatic yes. From the opening bars to the closing riffs it's plain to see that they're not just back to boost the retirement funds but have some real unfinished business. Three mikes line the front of the stage and frontman Jon King prowls the stage owning everyone, hurling himself around the stage, caught up in the ferocious energy of the music, just like the whole of The Forum. Guitarist Andy Gill stalks menacingly, attacking his guitar, conducting savage mayhem with his every move. The young bassist bounds around the stage, hurling his bass into numerous, frantic angles making it hard to see if it's youthful energy that has invigorated Gill and King, or if it's that the band's desire has become contagious. That energy and desire is most prominent with the arrival of a microwave onto the stage, which King then proceeds to beat with a wooden bat, creating a reverb laden drum beat, until bored at which time he throws the microwave off the stage - angry and spellbinding are the only words that cover it.
The songs themselves are as invigorating and ferocious as they sound on record. It's almost impossible to believe that songs like At Home He's A Tourist, Love Like Anthrax, and Damaged Goods are 30 years old, since everything they played tonight sounded as fresh and important now as it must have done all those years ago. Even songs from their later albums sound more important and gripping than ever, ditching the synthy new romantic sound that crept into their later songs like We Live As We Dream Alone and I Love A Man In A Uniform are reborn into tight, frantic, angular post-punk gems.
It's hard to imagine that three decades ago Gang Of Four were any more of an intense, energising and gripping live band. The next test, it seems, is recording new songs. Whereas The Stooges cut it on stage, producing some blinding shows, they fell at the final hurdle with a weak album. I really hope the same won't be said about Gang Of four when their new songs surface, but with the energy and drive of Gill and King it's hard to imagine how they will allow a substandard album out into the world.