REVIEW: The Boomtown Rats at O2 Academy, 4/5, by Jon Bennett
AS a child, I loved The Boomtown Rats. A Tonic For The Troops and The Fine Art Of Surfacing were staples on my cassette player in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And by the time Bob Geldof took charge of Live Aid in 1985, he was God. But that was nearly 30 years ago.
On Monday I had the privilege of seeing the-now Sir Bob and the band play live for the first time, and in as close to their original incarnation as I was likely to get. Four out of six of the original line-up cannot be bad. And the smaller, darker venue that is Bristol's O2 Academy was entirely appropriate for the band who many people feel 'conned' their way into punk.
The set list was also a dream come true for the dyed-in-the-wool fans. It started with (I Never Loved) Eva Braun before the band belted out a series of classics such as Like Clockwork, Neon Heart and (She's Gonna) Do You In, which saw Sir Bob display his considerable talent on the mouth organ.
As Sir Bob bounced around on stage like a teenager it was obvious this was no nostalgia gig. The energy and anger still seeped through every pore. Wearing his "mega plastic rainproof snakeskin suit" (his words, not mine), he did his best to energise the beer-swilling masses, who took a while to warm up. It was impressive stuff from a man in his 60s – so it was unsurprising that he began to run out of juice towards the end of the show.
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The Rats have released a new album to go with this tour – but as it is a 'best of' there is little in the way of new material, and their distinctive sound is still very much associated with a specific period in time. But the crowd loved it, with I Don't Like Mondays and Rat Trap being, predictably, the favourites for most.
In some ways it was a bit strange seeing The Boomtown Rats live after all this time – a bit like being caught in a timewarp, as song after song was recreated with exactly the same angst and urgency as it was in the past, with Sir Bob flailing his arms, dancing erratically and pointing out that "nothing has changed".
If ever a man was living proof that you are as old as you feel, then it is Sir Bob.
As for the rest of the band...
Well, I will say that they were perhaps a little less angry than they used to be.
Taking their lead from their famously-firebrand leader, who was as craggy, scraggy and foul-mouthed as always, the Rats pulled together and we Bristolians were treated to a superb live show, which included a cover of White Heat/White Light in tribute to the late, great Lou Reed.
You could question the Rats' motives for coming out on tour after all this time, but why bother? For those who turned out to see Sir Bob and the boys it felt good – really good. And that is the point, right?