Angelic Upstarts live – Pipeline, London – Saturday 5th September
The last time I saw the Angelic Upstarts play was in 1987 at the Astoria with The Exploited and UK Subs on the bill. From memory I think my musical taste had shifted too far by then and it took another 20 years until I went to my next punk gig, which wasn’t great in all honesty. As the old saying goes there’s only two forms of music, either good or bad and that it’s all subjective.
In the past couple of years I’ve been to a few gigs and, apart from The Business, none of the bands I’ve seen live have done much for me. On Saturday night I saw the Upstarts play live for the first time in 28 years. I nearly didn’t go because the friend that I was going with called off ill at 7pm on the night. That gave me a dilemma of whether I should go by myself or retreat home? After deliberating over dinner on Kingsland Road I decided that I was in the area and i’d give it a go. I arrived at the end of Crashed Out’s set and just before Mensi’s marauders took to the stage. The venue wasn’t over packed, but it was still a healthy turn out of old and new punks, skins and herberts.
The band took to the stage and the first thing I noticed was that Mensi had a big grin on his face. That was always a good sign that a gig was going to go well. They launched into a raucous version of “Two Million Voices” before segging into “Never ‘Ad Nothin.” I surprised myself with a few grins as well at the time because they reminded me how great the band were. The big hitters were there with “Last Night Another Soldier”, “Solidarity”, “Teenage Warning”, and “Kids On The Street.” Midway through their set they performed a new song called “Tories! Tories! Tories! Out! Out! Out!” which sounded like a future anthem for years to come. One of the things that stands out for me with the Upstarts is that Mensi’s lyrics always carried hope in adversity. Politically I’ve always been closer to Mensi’s politics than any other band of my punk years and it’s good to see that he hasn’t changed. They played a few songs that I knew but had never heard them play live before with “Anti Nazi”, “Red Flag”, and “Safe Haven” before closing their set off with a tidal wave of “Out Of Control”, “I’m An Upstart”, “Police Oppression” and “The Murder of Liddle Towers.” The band walked off and were rightly called back for a storming encore of “White Riot” and “If The Kids Are United.”
I left straight afterwards because I had to catch my last train home to South East London, but I left with a warm feeling because I believe that was the tightest i’d ever seen the band. Mensi always put on a great show and with the current line up he seems to have got the line up right. I tend not to do nostalgia because I don’t like looking to the past too much and it’s all about the future. On this live performance the Angelic Upstarts proved that they’re just as relevant today as when I first saw them in 1981 at the Nite Club, Edinburgh. I know that it’s not going to be another 28 years before i see the band perform again.