“I open the paper and read about Obama spying on the Americans.. and the Europeans. I read about Google and Facebook … mining your head… delving in to your soul and selling it to the highest bidder… You walk through London on any given day and your photograph is taken three thousand times…. Ladies and gentlemen of Leeds…THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE LOOKING AT YOU!!!”
At this point Geldof had well and truly got me in the pocket of his foisty snakeskin jacket. I’d just been to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Leeds, but at this point I would have gladly eaten my pumpkin risotto from the palm of Saint Bob himself. Bob the Gob. Sir Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof. Revered and reviled in equal measure. As he preaches his paean of paranoia and surveillance I’m disturbingly reminded of his excellent turn in Pink Floyd’s film of “The Wall” where a megalomaniac rock star morphs in to a slick haired dictator, pounding his clenched fists whilst orating to the adoring masses, but despite the untameable ego it’s impossible to admit he’s not a great frontman – and to be a great front man you need.. err.. front! And thankfully Bob still has plenty.
When the Rats come on and immediately kick in to the classic – “I never Loved Eva Braun”, I begin to fear they’ve played their best card too early. I’m more concerned when they followed this with “Like Clockwork” – the second single I ever bought (The first was “We are the Champions” by Queen, but I don’t like to talk about that). “Tick Tick Tick Tock… Count the hours, count the months and minutes, You're born in tears and die in pain and that's your limit”.
Blimey... my eyes are actually perspiring… there’s sweat pouring out of them.. my cheeks are drenched.. I’m in a hall packed with bloated, balding, old blokes, but I’m thirteen again, jumping around my bedroom with my first bass guitar, (a cheap, but shiny Kay) pretending I’m Pete Briquette - surely the most underrated bassist alive. There’s no Johnny Fingers.. (The one that looked like Sid Vicious in pyjamas), or Jerry Cott, but otherwise it’s the full team. Simon Crowe – effortlessly powerful drummer. Gary Roberts – looking more rock n roll than he did when the Rats first got off the ferry at Holyhead to gate crash the punk rock revolution.
I’m unashamedly a fan, and I find it weird that I have to qualify that statement, but such was the vitriol metered out on Facebook when their reunion tour was announced it almost felt like announcing you had a soft spot for the moors murderers. The hatred for Geldof I find even stranger. Sure, he’s no shrinking violet, but I personally like my rocks stars mouthy and opinionated, and if he’s made a few quid since raising millions to help starving Africans then so what? What reason did you have to get out of bed this morning?
For me the Rats were essentially a very tight R&B band in the manner of Dr Feelgood (Note for younger readers – R&B as in ball busting rhythm n’ blues rather than that dry humping pap that cheapened the acronym), but they ate at the same table as other bands I loved in that era such as The Clash, The Jam, Blondie , PIL etc. There were no boundaries for me then - suits or bondage pants, parkas or leather jackets – Anything that was fast and angry was punk, but The Rats had great tunes too – and tonight they’re flying through them with barely a break to catch their breath.
Geldof’s voice is getting a little croaky, and no wonder – he’s hasn’t stood still - darting around the stage in a manner that defies a man of his hair colouring. He literally “moves like Jagger”. There’s a great selection of tracks from their debut album - “Neon Heart”, (She’s Gonna) Do You In, (play dat harp boy!) and the magnificent “Joeys On The Street Again “.
“ GA GA GA GAAAARGGHH!!!”…” She’s so Modern”.... and then a song from 1979 about a school shooting.. “Nothing’s f** changed!!”, implores Bob, There’s that wonderful pause in the middle of “ I Don’t Like Mondays “…”and the lesson to day is HOW TO DIE………… and then the bullhorn crackles…”
A couple more blistering tunes and then we get the Holy Trinity of Rat’s crowd pleasers… “Mary of the Fourth Form” MMMMM Mary!!!.. “Looking After Number One” “Don't give me love thy neighbour…Don't give me charity…Don't give me peace and love or the good lord above…You only get in my way with your stupid ideas”
And then Bob asks us to help out with the sax riff – and they explode in to “Rat Trap”. The Springsteenesque sequel to” Joeys on the Street Again” . That bass line, that blistering guitar break after Bob screams - ”AND YOU’VE BEEN CAUGHT!!...” Argghh.. they’ve really blown their wad now.. They’re gone, but return with “Never Bite the Hand that Feeds” and the wonderful “Diamond Smiles” - a great example of how well they used to employ ridiculously infectious “na na na’s….” (as well as “la la la’s”)
They return finally for a short and slightly bizarre techno chant of “Boomtown Rats”. And then we’re out in to the cold Halloween night. That was special.
Gigs at the O2 in Leeds seem to start at a very un rock n roll times. When most bands have barely started thinking about turning up for the sound checks the headline acts here are just finishing their encores. (As one poor fella discovered when he turned up at 9.45pm to catch the last song!)
Still, it gives me enough time to enjoy a few post gig pints before the last train home and as Sir Bob said – “On a night like this I deserve to get pissed.. at least once or twice”.