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flag England - Full Moon 37 - 10/24/99

The Buzzcocks
Edinburgh Venue, October 4th 1999

Know your audience. That's the secret of a successful gig, the first rule of live music, especially for tribute bands or wandering minstrels playing the chicken-in-a-basket circuit. Well, that and Be Prepared. The Buzzcocks know their audience and thus plan a setlist which starts off roughly three oldies to one newer one, which by coincidence is pretty much how you could describe the audience themselves. They hadn't reckoned for the sound in the Venue however. Launching into Autonomy things seem a little stilted and Love You More is decidedly ragged. By the time they do the little feedback-ridden cameo that always precedes Noise Annoys, we've had 10 minutes of similar racket already with more to come.

The newly-peroxided Pete Shelley runs the full gamut of emotions during the gig - bored, tired, pissed off - "we can't hear what we're doing up here so could you keep the lights on so we can at least see?" - yes, it becomes quite clear that the band have no idea what chords they are playing. Even the most diligent Boy Scout couldn't have bargained for this. Steve Diggle is oblivious to it all, and it's almost that he's taken over as the frontman in the band, urging the audience to sing along, windmill guitar tricks and "Hello Edinburgh" (well, just about.) Shelley, meanwhile, is inscrutable, merely giving the bassist a look that says "what's he like, eh?" Diggle has written much of the new album Modern including Speed of Life which nearly stands out, but the sound is so bad that the only numbers to make an impression are those which are already in the subconscious. Mind you, there's never been much audience reaction to the newer material, even for their decent comeback album Trade Test Transmissions - the audience are there, of course, for The Hits. So the band round off with Harmony In My Head and leave the crowd wanting more (that's the second rule). They reappear - well, rules are made to be broken - to perform the singles in reverse chronological order and the audience finally sing along as the sound quality miraculously rises to 'average'. There's Promises (aah-uh!), What Do I Get (wooah-oh!), Orgasm Addict (ahem), the out-of-sequence Ever Fallen In Love (the audience know the entire song, natch) and, astonishingly, Boredom, where Shelley looks happier than he's done all night. I half expected to see Howard Devoto emerge from the gloom, but that would just have been a bit too much. The audience leave sated, deafened but happy. Bjorn Again was never like this.

Copyright © 1999 Stuart McHugh

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