An early write up for the Upstarts in Smash Hits, 17 May, 1979.
From the NME, 17 March, 1984.
In which amply strapping rock’n’roll vocalist Thomas Mensford is revealed as a sensitive soul. The brick shit-house-built bellower of three-chord, two-syllable prole political declamations is backed tonight not by the usual leathery yobs but one fresh-faced youth with a large and rather battered acoustic guitar. He approaches this first gig venture into the virgin territory of semi-solo performance as nervous as a lamb on the slab, eyes constantly flicking to the sides searching for the safety of his absent fellow Upstarts to share our scrutiny and examination.
Face pink with passion he reeled off a series of heartfelt anthems including the powerful anti-scab ‘Heath’s Lament’. Mensi is an optimist seeing even in the current climate of Working Class retreat the beauty of the human spirit that stands up and fights.
The proverbial Fly-in-the Ointment comes in the shape of our friend the fourth Generation dickhead punk who insisted on idiot-dancing and shouting along to even the most intense of his hero’s poems.
“Someone get that fucker in a band ferchrissakes!” snarled the stocky one glaring at the bopping fool whose mohican visibly wilted under the awesome scorn.
Mensi consistently rubbed salt into the sores that matter, especially when in a rendition of the classic Irish rebel rant ‘The Green Fields Of France’ he tossed aside the stinking Red, White and Blue hide of ‘Patriotic Socialism’ (Kinnock stylee!). From the man who once sank knee deep in the Bushellshite swamp of ‘The Falklands Spirit’ this was indeed stunning stuff.
Explosive tendrils of rigid dreadlock and a natty line in slashed to rags sartorial inelegance, ex-Osibisa bassist Spartacus R resembled nothing if not an electric chair escapee who has still managed to retain his sense of humour. He doesn’t strain his one-man set unduly with too much in-depth political analysis but smacks the despicable Reagan and Maggot soundly with some nicely-aimed haymakers. All in all he was hard, fast, just a little crude and went on for hours. THAT’s how I like ’em!
From Sounds, 9 June, 1979.
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.