THE PROFESSIONALS + THEE DERILIQUE – THE PRINCE ALBERT, BRIGHTON 9.8.22
The Professionals were formed in 1979 by Steve Jones and Paul Cook, following the break up of The Sex Pistols. The band enjoyed some initial success with their lively punky sound, but called it a day three years later. The 2015 release of a compilation album ‘The Complete Professionals’ prompted a reunion, without Steve Jones although apparently with his blessing. A new album, ‘What In The World’ was released in 2017 to widespread critical acclaim. The reformed lineup has gone through some changes of personnel, but continues to impress with energetic live performances and the release of another new album, ‘SNAFU’ in 2021. Following on from a show at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, the band are in Brighton tonight in the relatively intimate setting of The Prince Albert, a pub close to the railway station.
The upstairs live room is a square space with excellent sightlines and a decent sized stage and PA. There are plenty of familiar faces from the punk scene gathering on the pub tables outside. Some have travelled a fair distance, and everyone seems to be looking forward to the show.
Support tonight is provided by Thee Derilique, a five-piece featuring former members of bands from the Brighton scene of a few years back, namely Channel D, Lolita Storm, The FKB, and Coast To Coast. The first thing I notice is that Will Moore, who runs gigs at The Prince Albert, is on drums, so it’s a good job there’s nothing negative to report. On the contrary, the band are tremendous fun, blending a lively 1960s garage-punk feel with a hint of new wave.
House left, keyboard player Andy is wrangling some retro swirling organ sounds from a decidedly contemporary Nord Electro. House right, bassist Ian plays seated due to a bad back, but his bass runs are quick and nimble up and down the fretboard. A torch is gaffer-taped to the upper horn of the bass body, giving the instrument the appearance of a sniper rifle. Centre right is Jim, whose black semi-acoustic guitar, quiffed hair, and western shirt suggest a rock’n’roll vibe. Vocalist Spex is strikingly mesmeric, with bright red hair and a clingy top that looks like it’s made of rubber. Her vocals seem slightly more strident than necessary for the style of music, but it is a punk night, so why not?
Second number ‘Action’ is driven along by an urgent beat and staccato guitar stabs. ‘Doorbell’ is a two chord groove with a busy bass line, a “la-la” chorus and some impressive rolls around the kit. There’s good use of a call-and-response vocal on ‘Feeling Inside’, while ‘Love Was Everything’ is punctuated by a particularly effective whole-band stop. ‘Annabel’ has a quirky pop quality, and the pumping riff and organ swell remind me of Elvis Costello’s band The Attractions. The ten song set is completed in a tidy 30 minutes, and that time passes very pleasantly indeed. I would be more than happy to see Thee Derilique again.
Spex – vocals
Jim – guitar, vocals
Andy – keyboards, vocals
Ian – bass
Will – drums
Thee Derilique setlist:
‘Thee Derilique’, ‘Action’, ‘Doorbell’, ‘Feeling Inside’, ‘Love Was Everything’, ‘Annabel’, ‘I’m Happy Now’, ‘Connie And Jerry’, ‘The Derilique’
There’s a palpable buzz of anticipation, and the room is getting very full in advance of The Professionals’ set. It’s a warm evening, but the air-con unit and an array of fans are moving enough air to keep things reasonably comfortable. The band takes the stage to a loud cheer and the recorded accompaniment of ‘You’re Wondering Now’ by The Specials. A couple of exploratory check-it’s-working guitar stabs get it faded out.
“The intro tape has stopped, but we’re not quite ready,” frontman Tom sheepishly explains, to a loud chuckle, He conducts an impromptu crowd singalong to give his bandmates a few moments to get sorted out. The song lyric goes “…now you know this is the end”, but of course it’s just the beginning. The celebrated and iconic sticksman Paul Cook gets things underway with some urgently pounding floor tom, and we’re into ‘Easily Lead’, a song taken from last year’s excellent ‘SNAFU’ album. In case you are curious, the acronym stands for “Situation Normal All F*cked Up”.
The front head of the kick drum is suitably badged with the ‘SNAFU’ logo, and I’m immediately struck by the quality of the drumming, and the warmth and richness of the drum sound. Paul looks trim and fit, and is instantly recognisable, having played in one of the most famous bands in the history of popular music. The passing years have clearly provided the experience to thunder around the kit with breathtaking power, precision and fluidity.
House left is guitarist Chris Catalyst, recently revealed as one of the “Nameless Ghouls” in Swedish heavy metal band Ghost. His Telecaster has a fancy scratch plate, and goes through a Blackstar amp via a digital effects unit whose colourfully lit controls would look at home on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. I’m normally a bit sniffy about digitally modelled guitar sounds, though my argument that you lose the power and depth seems a bit thin here. Chris’s agile riffs and licks cut through nicely, with beautiful tones.
Centre stage, sporting a flat cap, is lead vocalist Tom. An engaging presence, he also utilises a Telecaster guitar, through a more traditional looking pedalboard and Marshall stack. Completing the lineup, house right, is bassist Toshi. Originally from Japan, he looks as cool as you like in black punk fashion, wielding a white Explorer-style bass with considerable swagger.
‘Just Another Dream’ is a single from back in 1980, a classic piece of catchy old school punky pop with a big chanted chorus and a great guitar hook. It was included on the ill-fated ‘The Professionals’ album recorded the same year. Because of a legal dispute, the album wasn’t released until the following decade, long after the band had split.
It’s warm enough for the players to want the fans at the side of the stage switched on. “It’s blowin’ me fookin’ hair all over the place,” jokes Chris, whose head is shaven. Tom has a similar problem in that it will start “a game of catch the hat.” Toshi very gallantly turns the fan on his side of the stage so it’s blowing towards the crowd. The relaxed banter is reflected in the jovial mood of the audience, who are clearly having a great time. We’re treated to ‘Going Going Gone’ from 2017’s ‘What In The World’ album. It moves along at a steady pace, driven by chugging guitar and embellished with plenty of backing vocals. There’s an unexpectedly descending chord in the chorus pattern that I find particularly satisfying, plus a rather splendid guitar break.
We’re regaled with an amusing story to introduce ‘Spike Me Baby’, a single from last year’s album. Apparently the lyric was inspired by an incident at Paul’s daughter’s house, where our hero had been putting up a shelf. A well-deserved fridge raid led to the accidental ingestion of some chocolates that had an additional active ingredient. The song itself is a cracker, with an insistent beat and a naggingly catchy guitar line.
Out in the audience, things get rather more lively with ‘Silly Thing’, a Paul Cook and Steve Jones composition from the soundtrack album of ‘The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle’. Quite a few people, including me, are jumping around, re-living their youth. The more recent ‘Hats Off’ has a bit of social commentary, its lyric concerned with the plight of homeless ex-service personnel. Appropriately, Tom doffs his cap at the conclusion of the number. There’s a marked change of pace for ‘Bad Baby’, a slower bass-driven piece whose post-punk feel is enhanced by some very vibey tremolo guitar.
We return to ‘The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle’ with the excellent ‘Lonely Boy’. The song provided the title for Steve Jones’s autobiography, upon which the recent ‘Pistol’ TV series was based. Tom posits that the TV show was actually quite good, and most of the audience seem to agree. He can’t resist a light-hearted dig of “apart from the drummer”, which naturally elicits an outpouring of love and admiration for Paul. After more joking and banter by way of introduction, the band launches into ‘Monkeys’, a blistering piece of righteous anger full of punchy stabs and a brilliant chanted chorus: “See no, hear no, speak no evil. Where did your monkeys go?”
It is traditional at this band’s shows to depart from the written setlist at some point. Paul is keen to go off-piste, though tonight’s digression is relatively minor, merely missing out one number (‘Rewind’) from the list. Instead, we move on to a couple of songs from the early days. The steady-paced ‘Kick Down The Doors’ features beautifully descending guitar and plenty of pushes, stabbed accents, and impressive drum flourishes. Toshi is encouraging the crowd to clap along in the breakdown. ‘1-2-3’ is as fine an example of old school punk as you could wish for, and inspires an enthusiastically vociferous singalong and much punching the air whilst counting on your fingers.
“I think we should do a bit of a Pistols-y thing,” suggests Tom, to unanimous approval, “since we are in the room with Mr Paul f*cking Thomas Cook.” This is a popular suggestion, and when it becomes apparent that it’s the classic ‘Problems’, from ‘Never Mind The B*llocks’, things get very lively indeed. Toshi crosses the stage to strike cool poses with his bandmates, and the crowd at the front are pinballing around on the beer drenched floor. It’s a lot of fun.
In a venue this size it’s not practical to go off and then return, so the last song is designated the “encore”. It’s the 1960s standard, ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’, originally written for Paul Revere & The Raiders and famously covered by The Monkees and, of course, The Sex Pistols. This rather brisk version opens with clanging chords and a massive plectrum slide down the strings, and Paul is doing his best to thump the floor tom into the downstairs bar. The crowd are jumping and chanting along to the chorus, and the brief breakdown section is overlaid with an impressively rapid drum fill. Chris is cooly playing the guitar howl by toggling his pickup selector switch.
There’s a massive cheer at the end of a hugely enjoyable set. There isn’t much of a dressing room, so the band promise they’ll be downstairs to mingle with the audience. I’ve really enjoyed tonight. In my view, The Professionals are the epitome of old school punk from the days when the focus was on tunes rather than velocity. The present-day incarnation is a formidable unit, and they certainly turn in an impressive performance.
Paul Cook – drums, vocals
Tom Spencer – vocals, guitar
Toshi J C Ogawa – bass, vocals
Chris Catalyst – guitar, vocals
The Professionals setlist:
‘Easily Lead’ (from ‘SNAFU’ 2021)
‘Just Another Dream’ (from ‘The Professionals’ 1980)
‘Going Going Gone’ (from ‘What In The World’ 2017)
‘Spike Me Baby’ (from ‘SNAFU’ 2021)
‘Silly Thing’ (Sex Pistols cover)
‘Hats Off’ (from ‘What In The World’ 2017)
‘Bad Baby’ (from ‘What In The World’ 2017)
‘Lonely Boy’ (Sex Pistols cover)
‘Monkeys’ (from ‘What In The World’ 2017)
‘Kick Down The Doors’ (from ‘I Didn’t See It Coming’ 1981)
‘1-2-3’ (from ‘The Professionals’ 1980)
‘Problems’ (Sex Pistols cover)
‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ (Paul Revere & The Raiders cover)
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