What punk wouldn't give his/her right arm to see either of these bands: UK metal-tinged hardcore punk legends GBH or one of the best bands to come out of the LA hardcore scene - the Circle Jerks? But to see both in one night? Come on, this was unreal. I've been waiting for GBH to come around since the winter when they announced a US tour, but alas, the dates in February were only on the West Coast. Us diehards on the opposite coast would have to wait months for the band to come around
Damn was it good though; the waiting only heightened my expectations and GBH along with the Circle Jerks didn't let me down, playing aggressive, energy-filled sets. However, unbelievably, as of the time the doors opened, this show wasn't sold out. I don't know, I just find that amazing because in the weeks preceding the gig, it seemed that everyone and his/her mother was planning on going. Oh well, it didn't matter because in the end, Irving was packed and everyone - young and old - was getting into the "charged" sets.
Now, that was one of the great things about this show. This classic line-up brought together people of all ages: we got the older crowd who grew up on this stuff when they were teenagers, the people like me who were teething when these bands' first records came out between '80 and '82, as well as the kids who weren't even born at the time - all enjoying the same music. Indeed, the unity really was a beautiful thing.
GBH, those hardcore punk purveyors of social ills took the stage first, and let's just say if this is how these enduring Birmingham punks play live twenty-four years after their inception, belting out tunes they dedicated to the forty-plus crowd - but not applying to vocalist Colin, as he was quick to wittily point out he's only twenty-seven! - imagine what their gigs were like back in the day in England. Well, for one night in NYC, it WAS the early '80s again, as the band played classics, mostly from their first two influential, ground-breaking albums - 1982's "City Baby Attacked By Rats" and its follow-up 1984's "City Baby's Revenge" - two records that are essential to the punk rock pantheon. However, they actually kicked off their set with the title track off their latest album, 2002's "Ha Ha," a record that really harks back to their earliest - and greatest - material.
But after this tune, the rest of the set was filled with oldies like "Diplomatic Immunity," the fun "Drugs Party in 526," and sardonic tunes like "Freak," "Womb with a View" and crowd favorites "Sick Boy," the urgent "I Am the Hunted," a song that begins with an intricate guitar riff from Jock, who just couldn't get it the first time around, and "Maniac," which was appropriately dedicated to NYHC hero Vinny Stigma of Agnostic Front. Likewise, the crowd went nuts during songs like "Gunned Down," which is highlighted by Scott's blistering drumming, "Catch 23," and "Give Me Fire," which Colin segued nicely into with complaints about the smoking ban in NYC. The crowd chanted along and there was a huge-ass circle pit for this number. More manic drumming at breakneck speed was seen on "The Prayer of the Realist" and they closed with their raucous and riotous rendition of the Stooges' "I Feel Alright," a cover originally found on "City Baby's Revenge." But, the climax of the night had to be the killer one-two punch of "City Baby Attacked By Rats," and its sequel "City Baby's Revenge." Near the end of the former, which was played at an even quicker tempo than the recorded version, things got a little theatrical as Colin managed to make his way atop a barricade on the side of the stage out by the audience and then jumped back on stage. The band followed this feat up by going directly into "City Baby's Revenge." Hard to top.
And I know there are only so many songs that can be played, but how great would it have been to hear "Lycanthropy" or to get a dose of the taboo with a little "Necrophilia?" Well, in any case, GBH were quite extraordinary, just assaulting the crowd with a barrage of legendary songs. Remarkably, the band first made the trek over to the U.S. in '83 - a true testament to GBH's longevity. Colin pretty much summed up the band's spirit and outlook succinctly in "Catch 23" with his repeated cries of "We'll survive!"
It would be hard for a band to follow an act like GBH, but my friends, the Circle Jerks, major players in the early '80s LA hardcore punk scene, are no ordinary band, as anyone who has ever heard them knows all too well. Playing killer punk rock interspersed with frontman Keith Morris' biting, sarcastic humor that borders on "treasonous" (!) - i.e. proclaiming that Bush, his cabinet, and some people within the Pentagon should be aboard the next space shuttle that will hopefully have the same fate as the last one that blew up upon returning to earth - and sometimes slightly off-center remarks and rants - "Stand up with your thumb in your ass and see where the political wind is blowing" - they force you to stay on your toes. Basically, they're just geniuses at infusing their songs with satire, mixing social commentary with humor impeccably.
The Circle Jerks performed songs off their numerous albums, including almost the entirety of their timeless 1980 debut LP "Group Sex," including gems like "Deny Everything" (twice), "Beverly Hills," "Back Against the Wall," the hilarious "I Just Want Some Skank," and "Operation." Keith kindly - and graphically - explained what this last song is about for those who didn't know. If you don't know what I'm alluding to, go listen to the record We also experienced the wonderful "World Up My Ass" in its proper form as well as Keith's alternate version, "Cheeseball Up My Ass," which was sort of an ode to his pre-show meal. And the songs from that other top-notch record, 1982's follow-up "Wild In The Streets" had the crowd really ecstatic - "Stars and Stripes," the frenetic, claustrophobic "Trapped," and of course, the title track, which the crowd beckoned the band to play as they came back out for their encore, and kindly complied. A couple numbers the guys performed off 1987's "VI," included "Beat Me Senseless" and "All Wound Up," and from 1983's "Golden Shower Of Hits" we got "When the Shit Hits the Fan" and the frenzied "Coup d'etat," which Keith set up by declaring that all the rich white people should be shot along with Saddam and Osama bin Laden.
Sarcastically, Keith claimed the band would have a new album out in 2008 - reiterating that it'd be available at all the major retail music chains, of course - but in the meantime played one from their "newest," 1995's "Oddities, Abnormalities, And Curiosities" - "Anxious Boy." As aforementioned, their encore was comprised of "Wild in the Streets," as well as "Wasted," and finally "Red Tape." And as said before about how fantastic it was to see the generations come together, during the Circle Jerks' out of control set, it was great how there were kids dancing and skanking along with the circle pit. These guys' music, as well as that of GBH, really brings together many different groups of people. And that - along with the entertaining, impassioned sets - is what truly made this night exceptional.
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A Body In The Gears