Buzzcocks - Back To Front - O2 Academy Brixton, London
Punk legends Buzzcocks originally formed in 1976, with the band fronted by vocalists Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley. Devoto left shortly after the band's debut EP Spiral Scratch was released, leading to bassist Steve Diggle moving to guitar and vocals.
By the end of 1977 the "classic" Buzzcocks line up was in place, with Shelley and Diggle joined by John Maher on drums and Steve Garvey on bass. This incarnation of the band released three successful albums and a lengthy run of stunning singles before splitting in 1981.
The band reformed in 1989, with exSmiths drummer Mike Joyce taking over from Maher, with Garvey also departing in 1992.
The songwriting team of Shelley and Diggle have continued performing under the Buzzcocks moniker to this day, with a handful of musicians taking over bass and drum duties, playing to crowds throughout the world and releasing a further five studio albums since their reformation.
Although the band are proud of their current material they've spent a bit of time recently revisiting past glories, releasing album A Different Compilation, featuring re-recorded versions of 24 of their favourite tracks and have scheduled two very special shows in their diary, with sets featuring the 77 line up and a Spiral Scratch showcase, fronted by Howard Devoto.
The punk pioneers Back To Front shows were held in Manchester and London and I was lucky enough to obtain a photo pass for their gig in the Capital at Brixton's O2 Academy, arriving in time to catch writer and punk documentary "talking head" Kris Needs spinning a few punk faves before MCing the evening.
As the title suggests, the sets were performed in reverse order, with the current line up of the band consisting of Pete and Steve joined by Chris Remmington on bass and Danny Farrant on drums taking to the stage first.
The night started well for me to begin with as Steve is always great fun to photograph, even when berating a drink throwing punter, but things went a bit downhill after I left the photo pit and concentrated on the music as the set was suffering from a horrendous muddy mix delivered at an ear splitting volume! The band once said 'Noise Annoys' and there was never a truer word spoken at the Academy as it was so bad I actually couldn't wait for the set to finish, which was a shame as although I'm not hugely au fait with the band's newer material it would have been nice to hear clearer (and slightly quieter) versions of the likes of 'Sick City Sometimes', 'When Love Turns Around You' and 'Alive Tonight'.
The second set seemed to be delivered at a more suitable volume (or I may have been deafened by this point) and was way, way more enjoyable, with the audience lapping up album tracks from Love Bites, A Different Kind of Tension and Another Music In A Different Kitchen, including 'Fast Cars', '16 Again', and 'Mad Mad Judy'.
It was a tremendous pleasure to see the original members back on stage again and Steve Garvey seemed to be having the time of his life up there, grinning from ear to ear throughout the show. Mind you, he certainly wasn't the only one smiling, especially when the band spent the second half of their set racing through the majority of their singles in reverse order, with 'Everybody's Happy Nowadays', 'Promises', 'Love You More' and 'What Do I Get?' simply proving no one could touch them for their breathtaking run of 45s from 1977 to 1979.
The band encored their set with another single 'Harmony In My Head', which was a bit of a disappointment as it featured Steve waffling on for a large chunk of the song, following with their most well known track 'Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)' and a blistering take on single 'Orgasm Addict', exiting the stage after the song, leaving us waiting patiently for Mr Devoto's entrance.
The band returned around five minutes later, complete with Howard, delivering a venomous 'Breakdown', with Devoto spitting out the lyrics, followed by 'Friends Of Mine', 'Times Up' and 'Boredom', leaving again on the song's completion, popping back for one final number - a cover of The Troggs 'I Can't Control Myself'. I had hoped for a mash up of 'Lipstick' and 'Shot By Both Sides' from Devoto's other band Magazine as both songs share the same guitar riff but it wasn't to be. I couldn't complain though as I felt I witnessed a little bit of punk history on the Brixton stage.