Mean Fiddler, London
September 13, 2003
"Kenworth rollin' upside my head/Eighty-eight spittin' out burnin' lead"...it's Saturday night in London and Radio Birdman are on fire. It's loud, it's proud, and it's rocking the crowd...but I'm jumping the gun a bit here.
Arrived at the venue around 8pm with The Saints' "This Perfect Day" cranking on the P.A., that led into "Born To Lose" and a few other '60s/'70s anthems which got the black-clad crowd in the right mood. The banner was hung by the drumkit with care, in hopes that Saint Ron soon would be there...the venue was packed with black-clad punters, and I couldn't help thinking what a contrast this must have been to the boys from their 1978 Anglo Strike tour. OK I wasn't there (too young and too Southern Hemisphere) but I've read the accounts and it wasn't pretty. Would tonight set the record straight ?
Loud cheers greeted their arrival on stage, then it was off into "Do The Pop" at maybe 90 miles per hour. Almost all guns were blazing, and that continued into "Smith and Wesson Blues". The sound was a little dodgy to begin with and there was much swapping of mikes for the first few tunes, but things really got going around song four with "Non Stop Girls"- sound problems fixed, band warmed up, and from then on it just kicked. That was the story of the night, in fact - things stayed at a certain level of intensity for a bit, then a particular song would ratchet things up to a new level. It wasn't always the expected tracks that did that either - "455SD" was one major rock moment - but "Descent Into The Maelstrom" did what it always does and took things into the stratosphere.
I swear I saw Dr Deniz smile at an early minor on-stage cock-up, so things must have been pretty relaxed for all concerned. The Keeley and Dickson rhythm section smoked, Pip Hoyle must have slipped the soundguy an extra tenner because it was the best keyboard sound he's ever gotten at a gig I've seen, and if Masuak and Tek ain't one of the most lethal guitar twosomes around, I'll eat Deniz's Epiphone (it looks more appetising than that plastic thing that Klondike wields). The guitar sound is the thing with a Birdman gig of course, and after the first two or three tunes it was insanely good. The chords powered and the leads burned, they weaved in and out and the telepathy was in full swing.
As for Sir Rob of the Youngers? Well he was in vintage form- not exactly Mr Talkative in between tunes but hey you don't pay to hear the guy tell you what he had for breakfast. My girlfriend (who is not a Bird-fan) was most impressed although she did say "the singer looks like the gatekeeper from 'Tales from the Crypt' " which I think was a compliment ! He was in fine voice and full throttle.
Apart from "Maelstrom" my personal highlights were "Murder City Nights", which Deniz dedicated to Detroit, "I-94" (of course !), "Dark Surprise", "Breaks My Heart", and an appropriately scorching "Burn My Eye". The first encore was long and included "Man With Golden Helmet" which seemed to confuse a few of the locals, the second was covers and included an awesome "Waiting for the Man". They gave us the best part of two hours and a great spread of tunes - although no "TV Eye" which was a surprise. Thankfully the dickhead standing behind me who'd been yelling out half the night "Play some Acka-Dacka, play some Chisel, play some Barnesy" had fucked off by the time they did "Anglo Girl Desire"...what gig did he think he was at ?
I couldn't help wondering how different the world could have been if 1978 had've had high quality sound, lighting, and full house enthusiastic crowds like tonight, but they didn't get nostalgic and wistful so why should I ? Radio Birdman played a set of high energy rock and looked like they were having a damn fine time doing it. The crowd sure as hell had a damn fine time watching and listening, and so did I. London hasn't been rocked like that since the last V-2 landed...
- Craig Norman
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