Tom Robinson - The Tabernacle, London
EMI have just released a sumptuous compilation from the Tom Robinson Band entitled Anthology. The collection includes three CDs and a DVD, bringing together both of their studio albums - Power In The Darkness and TRB Two - and a host of live recordings and radio sessions. If you’re a TRB fan it’s an essential purchase, even if you own the originals, as the extra tracks and DVD especially are value for money alone.
The band split up in 1979 so the majority of songs that make up the album haven’t been played live since, so the announcement that Tom was going to launch Anthology by performing debut Power In the Darkness in full had fans travelling from all corners of the globe to attend the event.
I've been to several shows focused around an album and a lot of times acts play around with the track listing, keeping the 'Big Guns' for later, but Tom and his band decided to blast off with opening number 'Up Against The Wall', one of my favourite chart-friendly pop punk singles from that era and continued to perform the rest of the songs in the order they appeared originally.
Tom mentioned early on that the band he'd put together weren't trying to replace the original members, as he'd had an extraordinary two years with them. The show was more of a tribute to the initial TRB team. I'd say the assembled musicians did them proud anyway as the whole politically-charged set sounded fantastic, with stand outs 'Up Against The Wall', 'Long Hot Summer', Winter Of '79' and 'You Gotta Survive'.
The album's final track 'Power In The Darkness' produced a special guest, in the shape of ex-Adverts frontman TV Smith. Tom had mentioned TV earlier in the set whilst talking about a gig back in the day when they toured together, with TV having to take over vocals as Tom had lost his voice, leading to a costly trip to a voice specialist who just prescribed "Lots of water"!
No one likes to be short changed and as PITD only lasts around forty minutes we were all hoping for a few extra tracks, so were happy to be treated to a trio from the Rising Free EP - 'Don't Take No For An Answer', the huge singalong that is 'Martin' and Tom's second (or is it third?) most famous song - 'Glad To Be Gay'.
'Glad To Be Gay' was a real ground breaker at the time and TRB's performance of the track on the short lived TV music show Revolver deserve's way more coverage in rock's history books. The ITV show focused mostly on punk and new wave acts and was fronted by comedian Peter Cook. It was scheduled for late night viewing but the first episode, where TRB appeared, was shown at prime time on a Saturday night, (in Scotland at least) with Tom delivering his lyrics protesting about the abuse the community received at the hands of the police and other relevant issues to a nation ensconced on their sofa, confusing them all by throwing in a hugely catchy chorus, with bouncy ball lyrics on the screen so we could all join in! I've certainly never seen the like on teatime telly since. I can't imagine the song appearing on this year's X Factor, scheduled at a similar time anyway, that's for sure!
The song meant a lot to the Tabernacle audience and they were in fine voice throughout, keeping up the momentum for the encore track that followed, TRB's number five smash '2-4-6-8 Motorway', with an extremely "on the hoof" version of Tom's solo hit 'War Baby' closing the evening, an extremely ecstatic Tom and his band taking their final bow on the song's completion.