REVIEW: Dead Men Walking, The Cluny 2, Newcastle
With a combined age of about 240, it's easy to see where 'supergroup' Dead Men Walking got their name.
Formed by former Theatre Of Hate/Spear Of Destiny frontman Kirk Brandon in the early 2000s, they have a fluid membership which has included the likes of ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, Bruce Watson from Big Country and Captain Sensible from The Damned.
The current line-up features Brandon, Stiff Little Fingers frontman Jake Burns, and Dave Ruffy and John ‘Segs’ Jennings, better known as the rhythm section of The Ruts/Ruts DC.
All their bands' live shows pack a pretty hefty punch, but for this tour, dubbed The Return of Dead Men Walking, there’s not an electric guitar in sight, and the venues they're playing are so intimate they can see the whites of their audiences' eyes.
It’s an entirely acoustic affair, which gives them the chance to dust off some old favourites, and one or two newer songs, and present them in a way seldom heard outside a rehearsal room.
The format is simple: Over the course of an hour and a half, they each pick some highlights from their respective back catalogues, and tell a little anecdote about the song, or the time it was written.
The banter between the songs was almost as good as the tunes, and it was obvious the performers enjoy each others' company, as well as having mutual respect for their music.
As a big fan of both SLF and the Ruts, I’d heard some of the tales before, but they still resonated with the audience, even if they were also familiar with them.
The show opened with the Ruts' oldie Something That I Said, and their other contributions were fan favourite B-side Love in Vain, 1980 single Staring At The Rude Boys, Golden Boy and Kill The Pain from their excellent new album, and their best-known song, Babylon’s Burning.
I’m not too familiar with Brandon’s ToH/SoD stuff, but it, too, went down well once the small but noisy minority who insisted on chattering through his first couple of songs and introductions got the message from those around them and shut up and listened.
The pick of his five songs was the Top 40 single Do You Believe In The Westworld, whose rollocking wild west vibe had you expecting a cowboy on horseback to ride through at any moment.
Burns, with nearly 40 years of material to choose from, went all the way back to the start of SLF’s career for two of his picks, the punk classics Wasted Life and Alternative Ulster, and they (along with Babylon’s Burning) prompted the biggest singalongs of the night.
He also chose the 1981 single Silver Lining, solo effort Drinkin’ Again (which many of the crowd knew the words to) and the powerful Guilty As Sin, from 2014’s No Going Back album.
Burns made the point that sadly the latter song, about the sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic church, could have been quite easily written about the entertainment industry, or, indeed, football, as recent events have shown.
Most of the songs we heard were more than 30 years old, but their messages - about war, terrorism, drugs and other social problems - still ring true.
That’s why these songs are classics, and why Dead Men Walking are filling small venues around the country in the run-up to Christmas.
They might be getting long in the tooth, but they're not ready for the knacker's yard just yet. Long may they continue to entertain us.