RADIO BIRDMAN
le Grand Mix, Tourcoing, France
September 14, 2003

WORDS: ANTOINE MAKHNO
PICTURES: JOOST DIERICK

ARE WE NOT MEN ? NO, WE ARE THE SUBHUMANS

Tourcoing is a big industrial city of the North of France with red houses that make you fear a nearly opaque sunset in the afternoon. There's a very special thrill at this concert since it's the last show of the Eurostrike Tour. You can feel the electricity in the air with most of the audience strolling in the hard-workers city deserted streets.

The ballroom name is le Grand Mix and it may be a former factory. The doors open at 8.30, quickly followed by the act. A local band, indeed from Paris, sounding a little like the New Christs and Died Pretty. Being honest, I didn't listen or watch.

I've rarely seen such fanaticism in an audience's heart; every roadie's footstep and every test drumbeat is acclaimed by a heart-rending scream.

FOR BRITAIN ONLY

Then came the moanings of the "intermittents du spectacle": a group of speakers who warn us that the ballroom will certainly close in the imminent future. It might be true but how many representants of the government and the MEDEF (France's bossmen and oligarchic association) are in the crowd tonight? They're what Jack London called in 1907 "the Iron Heel": an embryonic one, more pernicious again maybe.

And, as everyone knows, Deniz Tek claims in the "Orphan Tracks" CD that "he's always been a conservative". I'm hoping that Jim Dickson wasn't translating these speeches to Deniz!

I've personally been thinking for a long time that Radio Birdman really were a very political group. But, you could ask, outside of the military banners and emblems, what made them political? They were fighting against a system of classic rock band, and official counter-culture. And I'm not saying that they used to write focused songs à la Joe Hill, but it was always obvious that they were in tune with the general attitude and declarations of any '60s or '70s beat rock bands who were against the Vietnam war and the South America dictatorships. They were basically into fucking with the system. That's political.

"A Politician's Job They Say is Very High
'Cos He Has to Say Who's Gonna Go Out and Die
They Can Put A Man On The Moon Quite Easy
While People Here on Earth Are Dying of All Diseases"


- Black Sabbath, "Wicked World", 1970.

Though it isn't a long wait before the main event, people must take care that culture, music and smoking are the main essential pursuits in a lifetime.

HERE COMES THE NICE

Then come the idols! Enough has been said, and I just can't add anything about the songs (we know all of them off by heart!), but I'm struck by the amazingly aggressive basslines in the songs' intros ("Non-Stop Girls") and the many moments when you think that these guys are not mortal (especially "Descent into the Maelstrom").

We get all the stuff and more: "Dark Surprise", "Love Kills", "Route 66", "You're Gonna Miss Me", and that very special song in the 2nd encore! Crazy!

Sadly they didn't play BÖC's "Transmaniacon MC" or more '60s obscurities. These are my only regrets. Another one, perhaps: why did they play "I'm Waiting for My Man" in such a cacophonic way? That song must be played like John Cale did it on his 1982 release "Comes Alive". It's a solo-sung lyric thing and, of course, a master piece.

Tonight Radio Birdman were really playing TOGETHER which put the show even above the New Race/Powertrane heights. If someone did tape it, I think it would become a top LP, something extremely more impressive than the famous "Murder City Nights" bootleg or the "Ritualism" reunion show.

I CAN'T STAND NO PAIN

Rob Younger has a Jim Morrison-like charisma. In his motions and attitudes, he reminds me Phil May of the Pretty Things: sometimes hateful and menacing (a rocker attitude), and sometimes looking down at the audience like a pitiful dog (an '80s classic loser attitude). He can be considered the most charismatic and virile singer from Australia ever.

Then the show ended...it was poignant to shake hand with the heroes of the night, to see how tired and wet they were. I felt that the apparent friendship of the concert had suddenly turned into a distant, nearly cold and "professional" relationship between the band members: just like the Who and the Rolling Stones you can't help a tense [tired? - ED]atmosphere in reuniting again five fiery personalities in the same room 30 years after their beginnings. I think I will never forget the look in Rob Younger's eyes when he signed my posters and records. He may have been thinking that he will never be back here again with the friends of his youth. For such a great singer and performer, it must be perpertually heartbreaking to see others rise to heights while he remains a relative but magnificent loser in the Rock and Roll Success Stakes.

P.S. Deniz Tek has stolen my black pen I bought the day before the concert.

CONCERT RATING: Up there with the "Gimme Shelter" movie.

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