The jury is still out on whether Pete Wylie of Wah! over-achieved or under-achieved when he sent three great passionate anthems ‘Come Back’, ‘Sinful’ and ‘The Story of The Blues’ into the old fashioned Top 20 back in the days when you had to sell a lot of vinyl to make it big. Wylie always danced to his own tune and if that made him stand out so be it.
Nowadays it’s still impossible to be in his performing presence and not wonder ‘who the hell is this guy?” Loud, confident and with the sort of looks and shirt that get you a long way in American truck driving he’s the front runner of the various lead singers on stage when it comes to monopolizing the between song banter. He’s either very funny and self-deprecating or very serious about the cause and cries out against injustice everywhere.
Along side him are Peter Hooton and the rest of The Farm, all bouncing around like they’ve got away with throwing food at the teachers at Christmas, and the reason they’re all excited to be up there Mick Jones of The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite and Carbon/Silicon.
At various points in this London leg of the Justice Tonight tour, arranged to raise the profile of the plight of the victims and families of the Hillsborough Tragedy, they’ll all be joined by Hollie Cook, not so much a Son of A Gun as a Daughter of A Pistol – Paul, Richard Archer from Hard-Fi, and members of another Jones project the Rotten Hill Gang. They get to do what everyone in the audience wants to do, take Joe or Micks’ place on lead vocals and sing Clash songs.
A few Farm and Wah! Songs make up the early start of the set and this unlikely family of like-minded musical souls defy the logic that such a massive line-up might be ramshackle. This is something like the fifth night of the tour and they slip comfortably between their own songs and then into a Clash set.
It’s hard to capture how good it feels to see Mick Jones smiling away, more musical hall, than Acklam Hall nowadays, slight move of the guitar to the left as he grins to the right. Subtle moves that give away the many years he’s mastered the art of live music. When I’d seen pictures of the original gig in Liverpool which pre-empted this tour I wasn’t too struck by what exactly it was but the reality is, the moment they start playing Clash numbers I’m thinking ‘why the hell didn’t I go to every one of these gigs.”
This is the first time Simenon and Jones have performed Clash songs together since “back then” as Mick calls it later.
If, as Joe Strummer told me when I was a 20 year old writer for SOUNDS, The Clash “fell to ego” this new multi-member ensemble is the opposite of the rock star set up. It’s just about the music and Jones seems ecstatic to be out there playing his songs, stuck fast in the middle between musicians and audience who are delighted to experience songs that defined an era and an attitude for a generation.
The No Bullshit Rock and Roll Review kicks into another gear when Mick Jones taks the mic for ‘Train In Vain’ and then we’re into ‘Stay Free’ and then before you know it this free and easy likeable set up is mugged by a gang of old style street toughs in leathers and dirty looks.
You’ve seen The Wild One, then you’ve met Primal Scream’s new bassist for the night and possibly for the next season Paul Simonon. You know the man, coolest looking bass guitarist going and the Scream have leathered up to join him not the other way round. So now Wylie and The Farm have left Mick and Paul together, and Gillespie, Innes and co are ready to rock as a unit we’d best call Roger Corman Street Gang.
As Gillespie lurches into ‘Jail Guitar Doors’, dancing like a puppet with a drunken master, I cant help thinking they have to do more gigs like this. I’m tweeting away the set list and line-up changes and someone rightly replies ‘Have you died and gone to rock and roll heaven?’ This is the first time Simenon and Jones have performed Clash songs together since “back then” as Mick calls it later.
But there’s also the little matter of ‘Get Your Rocks Off’ and ‘Brand New Cadillac’, the song Joe never wanted to do live because it had been a 101ers favourite, explains Mick. “Well we’re doing it now.”
As a man who himself helped out The Pogues on vocals when Shane was out for a prolonged count, Strummer would have enjoyed the people he’d inspired doing his songs in their own style. Where Hooton is everyman, Wylie is Wylie and Gillespie that melted hybrid of early Cave, Lux Interior and Joey Ramone, no-one looks like a performer struggling to fill a dead legends boots.
Simenon takes the vocal for ‘Guns of Brixton’ and then the leather boys swap with the good time crew and it’s ‘White Man’, ‘Armagideon Time’, ‘Bankrobber’ before an epic ‘London Calling’, moshing MC John Robb doing ‘Janie Jones’ and a finale of the BAD classic ‘Rush’, probably Mick’s best post-Clash song.
Wylie and MP Tom Watson gave a couple of minutes of anti-Murdoch vitriol and then just when you’d think it couldn’t get any better, Mick Jones, whilst thanking the whole band and audience grabbed hold of John Robb and said ”he’s been writing about this on his blog Louder Than War, read about it on there, and read Sabotage Times every day, everything you need to read is on there.”
It was ace, it was communal, they encored with ‘Altogether Now’ renamed ‘We Are Family’ and I left thinking ‘that was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.’
All photographs courtesy of Al de Perez. Click here to go to his website and see his great portfolio...
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