THE UNDERTONES + NEVILLE STAPLE BAND – DE LA WARR PAVILION, BEXHILL-ON-SEA 17.05.19
Tonight, I was drawn to the De La Warr Pavilion to renew acquaintances with a band that gave me ‘teenage kicks’ in my youth, but my ‘true confession’ is that I had not seen them play live for almost 36 years.
The Undertones were visiting Bexhill for the first time ever with their own inimitable brand of Northern Irish pop punk and I was intrigued to see if they had stood the test of time and if I could still relate to their bittersweet songs about teenage angst and growing up.
The Undertones are touring in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the release of their seminal self-titled album. I was lucky enough to see The Undertones five times in their heyday with Feargal Sharkey at the helm, at Hammersmith Odeon, Hemel Hempstead Pavilion, Kilburn National, the Lyceum and their final gig in England supporting Peter Gabriel at Selhurst Park. I don’t even recall if I stayed for the headline act that day!
I also met Feargal whilst I was watching The Beat at Hammersmith Palais, he was stood in the crowd on his own and I went over for a chat with him. He was a very nice person and was happy to speak with this adoring fan.
Feargal was also responsible for my all-time highlight of gig attendance over 38 years. March 20th, 1983 at Hammersmith Odeon and as was commonplace back in the day there was a mass stage invasion. Not being able to resist I also joined the invaders and one by one everybody got kicked offstage by the security staff apart from a nimble 19-year-old yours truly. They tried to catch me but Feargal intervened and stopped them from doing so, he then showed me a dance routine whilst singing and we carried on grooving for a whole song. After the song was ended I also cheekily went up to Billy Doherty and got a drumstick from him. As will become clearer later in the review, this was actually the best piece of dancing EVER seen at an Undertones gig ‘Mickey Bradley’. Tonight, was to be a huge challenge for Paul McLoone to see if in my opinion he could fill Feargal’s shoes.
So tonight, all you lovers of ska had the choice between either travelling up to Brixton to watch The Specials for about £50 with three remaining members from the original lineup or staying local to watch original member Neville Staple and his band perform a set including seven songs from his days with the band and a couple of Fun Boy 3 numbers for half the price. Given the demographic of tonight’s audience it was obvious that quite a few of the local skinheads had chosen to come along to the De La Warr Pavilion for a night of ska covers from Neville, his wife and the other six members of the band.
For those of us of a certain age it was a step back in time and memories of growing up in Thatcher’s Britain came flooding back as ‘The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)’ was played. Originally written about Maggie and Ronald, fast forward this Fun Boy Three top twenty hit some 38 years and we now have Theresa and Donald. *Shudders*
Unfortunately for pretty much the whole set you could barely hear Sugary’s vocals, sounding muffled, and the technical issue wasn’t resolved until they played ‘Ghost Town’ with a bit of ‘Get Up Stand Up’ mixed in for good measure, close to the end. Still the fans definitely got their money’s worth from the support act as they put on a lengthy set lasting close to an hour.
The band members were introduced to the audience during ‘Ghost Town’ and all were given the opportunity to show off their instrumental skills and vocals in Sugary’s case, apart from the sax player who isn’t a regular band member.
There was the added bonus of a version of ‘Do Nothing’ which highlighted the musicianship of Joe Atkinson on piano and Spencer Hague joining in on trombone later in the song. It’s nigh impossible to replace Terry Hall’s vocals, but the band put their own stamp on the songs and played some of my favourite tunes by The Specials including ‘Little Bitch’, ‘Gangsters’ and ‘Do The Dog’. The set was finished off with the classic ‘Guns Of Navarone’ and every skinhead in the house was left satisfied.
There was a lot of skanking and moonstomping going on for the whole set, as the original rude boy got the evening off to an enjoyable start, more than warming up the crowd for the main event.
Tonight’s setlist was:
‘Gangsters’, ‘Johnny Too Bad’, ‘Little Bitch’, ‘Play A Song’, ‘Pressure Drop’, ‘Monkey Man’, ‘Really Saying Something’, ‘Message To You Rudy’, ‘Do The Dog’, ‘The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)’, ‘Original Rudegirl’, ‘Skinhead Symphony’, ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Do Nothing’, ‘Guns of Navarone’.
Neville Staple Band are:
· Neville Staple: Lead Vocals & Original Rudeboy!
· Sugary Staple: Vocals & Tour Manager
· Joe Atkinson: Keyboards & Additional Vocals
· Sledge: Bass Guitar & Backing Vocals
· Matty Bane: Drums
· Spencer Hague: Trombone & Backing Vocals
· Billy Shinbone: Guitarist & Backing Vocals
· A.N. Other – Saxophone
From the moment The Undertones lead singer Paul McLoone sang the opening lines “So you think you’re so clever never in doubt, but I’ve seen you together fooling about” to ‘Family Entertainment’ I could instantaneously tell that all was going to be okay tonight.
Second song in and there was a slight hiccup when the the band had some sound issues, as they couldn’t hear what was happening onstage, resulting in them having to stop abruptly mid song. Once resolved though they got on with the show like the consummate professionals they are.
For ‘It’s Going To Happen’ they were joined onstage by the brass section from the Neville Staple Band which as chance would have it worked out perfectly.
Much to my surprise ‘Teenage Kicks’ made a mid-set appearance sending the crowd into a rapturous state as we all relived our experiences of yesteryear apart from the handful of teenagers in the crowd for whom it is currently relevant. Without doubt this is still one of the greatest songs ever written. A woman got on stage to dance along and was ushered off by security only to reappear later in the song. Top marks for perseverance. Mickey Bradley later commented that it was “some of the best onstage dancing ever seen…. maybe.” I’m hoping that he recalled my effort from 1983.
Tonight, they played all of the first album with the exception of ‘Wrong Way.’ The singles kept on coming with the old favourites including ‘Jimmy Jimmy,’ ‘Here Comes The Summer’ and ‘I’ve Got Your Number (Why Don’t You Use It?),’ with ‘Wednesday Week’ showed off their emotional side and calmed things down. The set finished off with the brilliant ‘Get Over You’ and I was grateful of a short rest before the encore. Having some youthful moshers helped keep us elder statesmen focussed on completing the gig down the front though some seemed to be flagging as it did quieten down significantly during the encore until they launched into ‘My Perfect Cousin’ and all hell let loose.
With a curfew of 11pm which is very late by Bexhill standards, there were only two minutes left when they had finished telling us about Kevin and it looked like we were done for the night until the boys decided to give us a second hearing of ‘Teenage Kicks.’ I’m not usually one for a song being played twice at a gig as I feel like I’m being cheated but on this occasion nobody cared, including myself, as the hall went wild once again to this infectious tune. Even the old age population of Bexhill would have been oblivious to the overrunning of the curfew as they bopped away to this timeless classic.
There is a lot more interaction with the crowd nowadays than when I last saw The Undertones in 1983, mostly led by the charismatic bassist, 59-year-old Mickey Bradley and the new (in my eyes) addition, (radio presenter), Paul McLoone. Mickey told us that the band loved the venue and that they have found a couple of spare rooms that they are going to move into upstairs before playing ‘It’s Going To Happen.’ That would be pretty cool if it did actually happen.
He also told us this was the first time he had visited the seaside hence why he was wearing his jeans high in case he went paddling! Paul then asked the crowd to name famous people from Bexhill and he came up with Fanny Craddock which was probably appreciated by the majority of tonight’s crowd. All good light-hearted banter from the Derry Bhoys.
It always places a doubt in one’s mind when a lead singer leaves a band that they will never quite be the same again, especially when it is somebody with such charisma and a distinctive voice as Feargal’s, but the nucleus of the band has remained the same and in Paul McLoone I have to say that they have the perfect replacement. He is energetic, strutting around stage and performing some decent high kicks belying his 52 years. It strikes me that he was born to be the frontman of a band, though he also presents a radio show amongst various other things. Paul even called me out in the crowd during the encore when he noticed that I was wearing a Touts t-shirt to which I raised both hands in the air, so all could identify me for my split second of fame. Touts are a young three-piece band from Derry who you really must check out if you like The Undertones.
The 90-minute, 30 song set included pretty much all that any fan of The Undertones could have wished for, though given the intensity of the dancefloor a ‘Mars Bar’ wouldn’t have gone amiss to help me work, rest, mosh and play. If like me The Undertones have been off radar since Feargal left, then do yourself a favour and get along to watch some good wholesome family entertainment.
Tonight’s setlist was:
‘Family Entertainment’, ‘I Gotta Getta’, ‘Jump Boys’, ‘It’s Going To Happen’, ‘Tearproof’, ‘I’m Recommending Me’, ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘When Saturday Comes’, ‘Girls That Don’t Talk’, ‘Thrill Me’, ‘Love Parade’, ‘Male Model’, ‘Here Comes Rain’, ‘True Confessions’, ‘Teenage Kicks’ (1), ‘Here Comes The Summer’, ‘Dig Yourself Deep’, ‘I Know A Girl’, ‘Nine Times Out Of Ten’, ‘Oh Please’, ‘You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?)’, ‘Wednesday Week’, ‘Girls Don’t Like It’, ‘(She’s A) Runaround’, ‘Get Over You’ (encore) Billy’s Third’, ‘There Goes Norman’, ‘Listening In’, ‘Hypnotised’, ‘My Perfect Cousin’, ‘Teenage Kicks’ (2).
The Undertones are:
· John O’Neill – rhythm guitar and backing vocals (1975–1983, 1999–present)
· Michael Bradley – bass guitar, keyboards, lead and backing vocals (1975–1983, 1999–present)
· Billy Doherty – drums (1975–1983, 1999–present)
· Damian O’Neill – lead guitar, keyboards and backing vocals (1976–1983, 1999–present)
· Paul McLoone – lead vocals (1999–present)
The Brighton & Hove News music team covered their Brighton concert from 16th November 2017. Read our review HERE.
Visit and ‘LIKE’ our ‘What’s On – from Brighton and Hove News’ Facebook page HERE.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.