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Pere Ubu - Islington Academy, London, 18/9/2005

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 19 / 9 / 2005

Pere Ubu - Islington Academy, London, 18/9/2005


Pere Ubu have never been a band to rest on past glories. At a gig at London's Islington Academy, Anthony Dhanendran finds the caustic veteran Cleveland rockers still defining for themselves new limits and on rock's cutting edge

“They don’t make microphone stands for real men any more,” says David Thomas. “They have to be dainty enough for women. I’m going to reveal a deep dark secret. Women,” he growls, “should not be allowed to sing.” But let’s rewind a little, back to the beginning. Pere Ubu are on stage at the Islington Academy, the north London venue built by former Eurythmic Dave Stewart inside an Islington shopping centre. Pere Ubu, these days, is largely the project of frontman David Thomas, and the band has been recording and touring, on and off, for some years, since reforming at the end of the 1980's. The band begins with a pair of songs from 'St. Arkansas', the recently re-released 2002 album. 'Dark' is urgent and, well, dark, and afterwards Thomas apologises for the quality of his voice. He alludes to having taken something, although he adds: “It’s nothing illegal”. 'Electricity', from 1995’s Raygun Suitcase, completes the impressive opening to the show, with its boxy drums and wailing synthesizer sounds. The next song, 'Folly of Youth', is introduced as “the last song we wrote about Cleveland”. Although the band have been going, in various forms, for 30 years, Thomas has not lost his cutting edge and acerbity, particularly noticeable when it comes to intra-band relations. There is some tension between the players tonight, which translates well into the music, giving it impetus and drive. The band, however, are not having the best night. The stage – the gig is in the smaller bar section of the venue – is not quite big enough for them, and through the seminal 'Modern Dance', 'Perfume' and 'Sad.txt' they are continually moving around and adjusting their instruments. This is what prompts Thomas’s comments about the microphone stand. A voice comes from the audience: “We love you”. Thomas replies wearily: “I love you too.” The performance nevertheless is still superb, despite Thomas’s self-professed dodgy voice and the problems with the stage. Pere Ubu play a set that would put younger bands to shame. The main set closes with, among others, new song 'Texas Overture', which imagines a future America. There isn’t much here from the band’s earlier albums. Unlike many such venerable acts, Pere Ubu do not seem afraid to continue pushing their new music at the expense of old. There is no resting on laurels here, and the band are all the better for it.

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Pere Ubu - Islington Academy, London, 18/9/2005

Pere Ubu - Islington Academy, London, 18/9/2005

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