LIVE REVIEW: Buzzcocks, North Shore, Sunderland

Steve Diggle, left, and Pete Shelley of punk legends Buzzcocks playing at North Shore - their first-ever Sunderland gig.
Steve Diggle, left, and Pete Shelley of punk legends Buzzcocks playing at North Shore - their first-ever Sunderland gig.
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IT seems incredible that punk legends Buzzcocks, formed in 1976, hadn’t played in Sunderland for well over 30 years - some suggest never at all.

Newcastle has been a regular port of call on their travels, and they’ve also been to Durham, Stockton, Middlesbrough and even Tynemouth.

Credit then to promoter Jon Connor for bring them to the 1,000-capacity Students’ Union venue and pulling a very healthy Saturday night crowd.

Sadly, I missed openers Death To Indie, a fourpiece from Newcastle whose fast-paced punk rock ‘n’ roll sounds right up my street.

But I did see Sunderland’s own 1977, who turned in some top-notch punk and new wave covers by the likes of The Stranglers, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Stiff Little Fingers.

Time then, for the main course. Buzzcocks founding member Pete Shelley and fellow vocalist/guitarist Steve Diggle, who’s been alongside him almost from the start, might well have invented pop-punk, with a run of classic three-minute singles in the late 1970s.

Here, they rewound all the way back to the start, opening with Boredom, from their debut Spiral Scratch EP, and following with Fast Cars – never a single, but, as the opening track from their debut album, always a fan favourite.

For the next hour Shelley, Diggle and their latest sidemen – Chris Remington on bass and Danny Farrant on drums – plucked out choice cuts from a back catalogue which is up there with the genre’s best.

I Don’t Mind, Why She’s A Girl From The Chainstore, Noise Annoys, Promises and Love You More were all wheeled out, sounding as good now as the day they were written.

Make no mistake, Buzzcocks are as tight as they come, and even if the age of the two main protagonists means they don’t jump around like in days of yore, they still know how to put on a crowd-pleasing show.

Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle in action at North Shore in Sunderland.

Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle in action at North Shore in Sunderland.

And although it’s inevitably the old songs people come to hear, they’re more than a heritage act, as evidenced by last year’s new album The Way, which received their best reviews in years.

A handful of songs from it made the setlist here, including the title track, People Are Strange Machines and Chasing Rainbows/Modern Times, and they were very well received.

But it’s the old stuff that brings in the audience, which contained a surprising number of fans who won’t have been born when the band’s original incarnation split in 1981, or when they reformed eight years later.

Thus, after an hour-long main set in which they scarcely paused for breath, the ‘Cocks wheeled out a five-song encore including the wonderful Harmony In My Head, What Do I Get?, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and the closing Orgasm Addict.

Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley may be older and wiser but he can still belt out their three-minute pop-punk classics.

Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley may be older and wiser but he can still belt out their three-minute pop-punk classics.

My personal highlights were slightly more obtuse, and separated by 25 years: Autonomy, a 1978 debut album cut featuring one of the most insistent guitar riffs you will ever hear, and 2003 single Sick City Sometimes, which marked a fine return to form after some patchy ‘90s efforts.

Everyone present will have had their own favourite though, which is why Buzzcocks will continue to pull crowds and put on shows like this for as long as they decide they want to.

Boredom? Not a chance when Manchester’s first and best punk band are on this sort of form.

Punk legends Buzzcocks playing at North Shore - their first-ever Sunderland gig.

Punk legends Buzzcocks playing at North Shore - their first-ever Sunderland gig.

Steve Diggle giving it everything as Buzzcocks wow the North Shore crowd.

Steve Diggle giving it everything as Buzzcocks wow the North Shore crowd.

The view from the balcony as Buzzcocks play at North Shore.

The view from the balcony as Buzzcocks play at North Shore.