Sham 69
@ Leeds Rio'ss

It’s fifty-fifty which Sham you get these days. The band, having sacked front man Jimmy Pursey recently and hired in a new singer, are touring as Sham 69 but then Jimmy claims the name applies to him and whatever musicians he chooses to work with. Philosphical questions that arise as to what constitutes the original band might be a bit deep for the authors of Hurry Up Harry, Borstal Breakout and Hersham Boys.

Tonight, Sham 69 are the lads plus Tim V on vocals, Dave Parsons, on guitar, leading the band. They have to endure some barracking from those surprised at the line up but Tim fields it all with a good natured barrage of cock-related put-downs and wisecracks.
“Where’s Jimmy”, shouts someone.
“He’s at home, counting your money….”

There’s a new album out and we get it mixed in with old favourites from a frighteningly long time ago and a few more recent songs. ASBO Sports Day is a good laugh and Don’t Wanna, (“work till I’m 65”), rings truer than ever! The sonic thrust is pure and basic punk, a charge of crude energy, all toppy, brittle guitar and drums, making this old punk happy. Back in the day I was suspicious of Sham 69’s intentions. It seemed that they were making singles targeted at being working class anthems so they could slip in some agit-prop at the same time. Through this mission they effectively created Oi music and split the punk movement. Now the effect of these songs flips between nostalgia, headrush and social sloganeering. Angels With Dirty Faces (“kids like you and me”) is a tad out of place for this mostly middle-aged audience but the moshpit seems youthful enough. Eschewing the classic straight up and down pogo of 77 / 78, the front area of the hall is home to some friendly slam dancing. Sunday Morning Nightmare, an old B-side , is proto-Shameless, all about Sunday back at your family home after a wild night out. Contrast it with the original anti-authoritarian A-side, Questions And Answers, and you have the band’s original mission summed up, though even at fourteen, it seemed naïve to me. Tonight it’s just a blast of fun.

Tim announces “I’m skin and bone and fat – get used to it”. Though by now, he has won over the doubters, who just wanted a fun Friday night out anyway. I scan round the audience and I see sweaty topless lads in the pit, studded leather, chains, a woman in tartan corset and black net tutu, some mohicans, a lad in a Crombie and short jeans, a pair of tartan trousers and a couple of bovver boys in high-laced Doc Martins and turned up jeans. It’s a right nostalgia trip but, surprisingly, not a sad or tired one. After fifty minutes, I’m still having a good time but the last train beckons and Rios’ loopy late stage times saw the band on well after ten.

Ross McGibbon