Chumbawamba @ City Varieties, Leeds. 31/10/12

This was a final hometown gig for Chumbawamba who have decided to call it a day after 30 years of stirring things up. What can you say…….. “Suction” apparently…….

Great rapport with the crowd. Great Anti Homophobic/domestic abuse/fascist/monarchrist/war songs – all in perfect harmony with a lightness of touch and more often than not a comic twist (‘Torturing James Hetfield’ just one case in point). So sorry they’ve gone…..who’s gonna sing about these things now? QUIMS regular Jez reports………..

One score and ten years ago a troubadour band of happy-go-lucky insurgents set forth into this world to eloquate, educate but more so to entertain. Sad, so sad then that 30 years on, and aptly timed on the Dia de Los Muertos, that the ticking time bomb was scheduled to stop ticking. But no! In the end it exploded. And how?!  In tremendous singalong anarchy stylee. And what a wake it was…

It was a bit of a rush to get in for the “7.30 sharp” missive on the poster. Don’t these anarchists realise the rest of us have normal jobs and lives to lead? Actually no. If is to believed (which it usually is; a more honest, authentic group of musicians you are unlikely to find), it is the mundanity of the real life of these musicians that is getting in the way of Chumbawamba’s very existence.

This rush to arrive left me short of a (cider) drink to settle into singing the songs that reminded me of a better time, a time before Chumbawamba – the greatest band to come out of Leeds ever – had announced their own demise.

Danbert Nobacon was Master of Ceremonies, duly attired in the Mexican Tradition of the Day of the Dead, his very appearance only hinting of the Chumba-Supergroup that would eventually fill the stage, and our hearts, one last time.

But to start it was Boff Whalley and the contemporary five piece acoustic Chumbies that kicked off the night with a selection of the protest songs we had come to adore and admire once again.

The usual banter was in full swing just as if this wasn’t the last night it would happen on these shores; several introductions were longer than the actual numbers they preceded. The heckle of the night related bizarrely to the Henry vacuum cleaner but there was no suction here, just heart warming anarchy that kept on giving, never taking, never sucking the energy out of a life worth living, unlike so many of the subjects of their songs.

Many gig-goers had adorned fancy dress in honour of the day, not least the front row who wore masks of life-sucker Maggie Thatcher. This prompted a comment from the band about how poetically wonderful it would be if some of their most loathed politicians from down the years would actually die tonight. I have to say I can never quite manage to reconcile such vitriol with the sublime vocal and acoustic harmonies this band create. It seems at odds to me such beauty can co-exist with such hatred. Easier on the conscience was the simple stage set, a washing line adorned with several teeshirts depicting slogans of a certain political  persuasion. “I only joined the band so I could get them all”, quipped Boff.

Ahh, but the music, the Music, the MUSIC! All expectations outstripped; from Timebomb (“Harvey Nicks is falling down”), through Homophobia, Jacob’s Ladder and two “songs for the ladies”: Stitch in Time and Learning to Love, to Add Me (a Facebook generation lament), this was perfection. Not a weak song amongst the two-hour-plus set.

And then there were the guests: Danbert made two Harvey Wallbangers (a vodka drink) and handed them out to the audience; after a seven year absence Alice Nutter rejoined the group (naturally dressed as a nun, swigging a whiskey drink) for On eBay, Dunstan Bruce and Danbert joined in for Tubthumping, and other guests included Paul Greco and veteran folk star Roy Bailey.

Incidentally, my brother has traced our family tree and I have an ancestor actually named Alice Nutter – another rat’s tail in pop music’s magic potion – so at least I’ve got that going on, which is nice 😉

If this was the day of the dead then these were the ghosts of anarchists past and present.  But what of the future, a future with a “Chumbawamba shaped hole” in it? Boff invited this hole to be filled with younger musicians who would continue to sing about things that matter. But who can continue in this vein? My mind turned to anarchist sympathisers Jeffrey Lewis and Frank Turner, but they’re hardly young! C’mon Leeds we need another band like this!!

The crescendo included a rousing Enough is Enough featuring a refrain from the Clash’s Armagideon Time, Torturing James Hetfield (a response to the Metallica frontman’s  permission for the US military to use his music to torture prisoners at Guantanmo Bay), and an amusing dig at the ultimate ‘er indoors HM the Queen using the Beatles’ Her Majesty. Authentic to the last, Boff even apologised to Sir Paul McCartney demonstrating the usual modest, even genteel, polite dissent.

Overall though this last hurrah left a taste of defeatism perhaps that all this anti fascist ‘show’ has come to nothing and the fight has just become too much? Surely no! For the songs’ sake if nothing else the show, the band, MUST go on.

Contrary to the belief of my fellow gig goers ( Bob, Lee and Sledge) I did not have a tear in my eye. I did have a lump in my throat though. A Chumbawamba shaped lump, or perhaps it was a Chumbawamba shaped hole?  All I could do was fill it with ale (a lager drink).

And that was the wake that was 😉



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1 Response to Chumbawamba @ City Varieties, Leeds. 31/10/12

  1. Pingback: Commoners Choir – The Chemic Tavern, Leeds – 18 July 2016 | QUIMS

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