Exactly 12 months ago, I travelled down to London to see my favourite band of all time play at Brixton Academy. New Order had just released their first album of new material in ten years, and they put on a crackin’ show, with a mix of the new material and old favourites.
Today, I ventured south again, but this time only as far as Middlesbrough, to see a guy who was responsible for one of my favourite singles of all time – ‘The Story Of The Blues’ – and who is about to release his first studio album – ‘Pete Sounds!’ – for over 16 years. Pete Wylie emerged from Liverpool at the same time as people like Ian McCulloch, Julian Cope, Holly Johnson and Pete Burns. His first band – ‘The Crucial Three’ – actually included Mac and Julian, and around the same time he was in another with Pete.
The support act was The Filthy Tongues – a four piece Edinburgh band who certainly got the place in the mood, with some high decibel guitar-based rock. If the lead singer and guitarist had dyed his hair and beard ginger, he’d have passed an audition to be in a ZZ Top tribute band! However, he looked the part, all in black with a long black beard, sun glasses and black wide brimmed hat. He and the band sounded the part as well – a bit like early Alice Cooper, I was reliably informed by the mate who joined me for the evening. They have an album just out, called ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, and the title track, and one called ‘Long Time Dead’, stood out to me.
From the moment he appears on stage, it’s obvious that Pete Wylie is absolutely loving his come back. He chats away with his audience, recounts anecdote after anecdote, trashes the Tories at every opportunity, bigs-up Liverpool, and generally really enjoys himself, which is always a good sign. If the performers are enjoying it, I think the audience generally does as well….I certainly do!
The set opens with two very appropriately named songs – ‘Remember’, a single from 1982, followed by one of two big hits Wylie had in 1984, ‘Come Back’. The latter sounded a bit different to the original, but as Pete told me when I interviewed him last month (click HERE to read), he wants to play the tracks with the energy they have now, and to enjoy it like he did back then. He doesn’t want the songs to be like you’ve heard them plenty of times before, and he certainly achieved that……….and, thankfully, they still sound pretty damn good to me!
As the band plays the brilliant ‘Sinful’, they slow it right down in the middle, and it segue’s into a few lines from Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, before gliding to the end of his own song again. It’s a really great way to pay tribute to a legend who clearly meant a lot to Pete.
Just in case anyone in the room thought he had mellowed with age, a fantastic anti-Tory rant puts them to rights, and ends with a great rendition of ‘The Day Margaret Thatcher Dies’.
And even then, Wylie wasn’t finished, with his spleen definitely being totally vented against the former South Yorkshire police chief who was in charge at the time of the Hillsborough disaster. He’d waited only a few days after the Liverpool fans had been totally exonerated from any blame by the recent public inquiry into the tragic deaths that day in Sheffield, to release a book of “his version of events.” Pete has been heavily involved with the relatives of the 96 as they have striven for justice, and leaves no-one in any doubt about his feelings about this unbelievable choice of timing….but he calms down sufficiently to play his anthem ‘Heart As Big As Liverpool’, which goes down really well with the audience.
Thankfully, another of my favourite tracks is included in the set – ‘4-11-44’ which is a song about a former girlfriend and former member of Wah!, Josie Jones, who died recently. “She walks like tiger and sleeps like Siamese” and clearly she still means a lot to Pete.
The audience is clearly lapping up this evening’s performance, which includes songs from the time near the start of his recording days, like the 1980 nuclear-crisis inspired, very punky, very loud and very good ’Seven Minutes To Midnight’ – “we might be able to release that again, now that clown has been elected president of America” – right up to today, with a track called ‘Still Believe’ from the new album, which is part of the encore. ‘Seven Minutes…’ contained a reprise of ‘You Spin Me Round’ and it was a fitting tribute to Pete Burns.
Of course, we’re made to wait till the end of the main set for ‘The Story Of The Blues’, but it was well worth the wait! The words still clearly resonate with everyone present, and I have to say that Pete still appears to have much of the energy he had over 30 years ago. The newly assembled band – they have only been together for just over six weeks, the drummer later told me – were excellent, and made the track come alive again. “People say this is the best band I’ve ever had – I’ve only had two!” Pete jokes, while rightly heaping praise on the guys.
The only minor disappointment of the night was that we only got to hear two tracks from ‘Pete Sounds!’ Other than ‘Still Believe’ in the encore, there was a touching love song called ‘Free Falling,’ inspired by Pete’s wife Kate, who he only married about 18 months ago. As much as it was great hearing some old favourites, I would have liked to hear a bit more of the new material as well. However, it’s a small gripe about a night that I’ll remember for a very long time.
And, as someone once said, on Part 2 of that favourite song of mine mentioned above…
“….well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to that.”
Photographer – Andy Lochrie
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