Two years ago The Undertones surprised the lot at the Markthalle big time – an endless barrage of 2 minute party hits delivered in a maximum joy setting. As such the return to Hamburg as part of the „40 Years of Teenage Kicks“ Tour was a fixture that even lured people from far, even a mate of mine from Rotterdamn came over after being blown away by them during their September show at the Paradiso in Amsterdamned.
It was an early night as they even sported a support band, but me and me mates happily let go that opportunity. And once it was 21:00 it was time for The Undertones, kickin‘ it in for i guess 850 odd people:
And from the first chord something was missing. On the one hand the „Undertones“ logo on the backdrop (has it gone AWOL?), on the other hand something with the sound was not 100% to my liking.
Nonetheless the only valid start if your tour is „40 years of Teenage Kicks“, as this was the A1 from their 1979 debut album. Most likely that record everybody has in his cupboard though it lacks said „Teenage Kicks“ (as it came out a year ahead).
The Undertones (Markthalle, Hamburg, 30.11.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)
What i did like was the humble setting on the big stage: Two Marshalls, one AMPEG and drums on the riser. Three mikes. And loads of free space that was rarely used, as they tend not to roam around that much. That „tend“ does not account for Paul McLoone who sometimes likes his Morrissey poses way too much (for my and some of me friends liking).
Did the rest of the audience like it? Yes they did!
For me it was slightly less enjoyable than in 2016 as they played less songs and did threw in a wee bit more that came out later. Sure thing that is my very personal problem and they have all the right to give the audience a full view of their 40 years – it is just that i have a wee bit a narrower view on them.
The Undertones (Markthalle, Hamburg, 30.11.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)
Still, it was lot’s of fun and we even got Teenage Kicks twice in the set as a customer in front of the stage complained to the band that he was delayed into the show and missed the first instance. Sure aiming to meet customer demand they did threw it in again – nice trick.
If they come back every other year and if they but a different spin every time then i will still be loyal and go and see them – they deserve it, as they continue to be humble and friendly musicians from Northern Ireland.
And they played my loveliest song too … here it is straight from a January 1979 Peel Show with an intro by the honest John Peel himself:
And now sing-along:
If you say no It would break my heart in two But don't you realize There's too many watching you We're making too many problems Making matters worse Maybe its a curse But oh baby its hurts oh baby its hurts If you say no It would break my heart in two But don't you realize There's too many watching you We're making too many problems Making matters worse Maybe its a curse But oh baby its hurts oh baby its hurts If you say no If you say no We're making too many problems Making matters worse Maybe its a curse But oh baby its hurts oh baby its hurts Songwriters: William Edward Martin Doherty Billy’s Third lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
And for me and me mate the night ended in way too much beer, and then some more. And then being thrown out of the venue (due to closing). But there are more humble and friendly Nothern Irish lads in Hamburg – one manages a watering hole not too far away and we even got a free pint there to top the night.
I can assure you i had a decent hangover going to the St. Pauli game on Saturday and that little snippet tells you actually how great The Undertones have been, are and will be.
A rainy Thursday evening is actually the least best day for a crowded show, specifically if there is other entertainment in town too. Crowds where either drawn to the Fabrik (to see MC50 and Wayne Kramer) or to the MS Hedi (to see Nothington) … or upstairs to the Hafenklang in order to get ears ready for more serious power pop with the Undertones on Friday.
Me and many friends decided for the Hafenklang and whilst initially it felt empty it later was decently filled (though not sold out). First on Jitterbug from sunny Blackpool (that seaside town up north that is subject to the annual pilgrimage by many of the Hamburg lot).
Litterbug (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 29.11.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)
Jitterbug play fast paced punk with some great bass play (and an almost hyperactive bass player) and less great singing. One of me mates noted „the guy on guitar seems to have too much on his plate when he also sings“ but for me it was still on the ok side.
Would i go the extra mile for them? Nope. Did i appreciate their set? Yes indeed, at times their sound had some great speed variations and – as said – some great bass lines. In most of the songs actually the bass did carry the melody, something that only few bands make their unique selling proposition.
What did stand out too was their merchandise, brilliant T-Shirts and a killer T-Shirt for all UK Punk literate collectors:
#1 Love for 1977, #2 A Tape and – with all tongue in check needed – #3 A Porky Prime Cut (and those who can not relate to that never ever called records from the hey days of Punk in the UK their own). Well done mates, well done!
Without too much hassle the stage was turned over to them Pills . If you don’t know them – here is how they set themselves:
Biography Born a loser Alcoholic, substance abuser Hated, loathed with no fixed abode Jinxed, given a curse To never be best, always the worst A peasant who wants to be king PHIL PRIVILEGE attempts to sing Bad tempered, aggressive music obsessive Never the banquet Only the crumbs CHRIS WRIST bangs the drums Glassy eyes, greasy skin Constant depression is a state he’s in A dirty, nasty rat faced critter Runt of the litter SY PINKEYE guitar picker Petty criminal Small time crook Broken home, bad neighbourhood The human race hates his pretty face ALARICK ‘THE TRICK’ plucks the bass Liar, faker, liberty taker Sleazy vain, a wannabe stud A rotten piece of Norwegian wood A drunken lout with insatiable greed ALEX ARSON strums the lead A gang of c***s from a desolate land Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the band…. CYANIDE PILLS
And they stormed into their set like this:
Just perfect: High energy power pop, scent of glam and and undertone of punk. And 5 different stage personas with unique schemes, grins and … sound. I felt victim to them a long time ago and i am always stunned that they are able to re-surprise me. In principle i know what will happen but when it happens i am still stunned.
Cyanide Pills (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 29.11.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)
They blasted song after song, had fun on stage and fun off stage and made a lot of people in the audience smile (and some even to dance). To many outsiders they may look like a degenerated lot but in fact they are there to remind people that music is relevant for quite some time (when repacked every once in a while).
And after blasting through 20something songs they ended the set on another highlight:
Conquered! Though forever i will put forward the request that actually they do play my loveliest song! Please!
When the lot dissolved after the show it was a lot of „see you tomorrow at Undertones“ and that is exactly what i will do. Just to get more of those 2:00 long power pop pearls!