The Undertones – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Thursday April 8
It has been a good week for the punk rock dads. On Wednesday night at Rock City, the newly reformed Big Audio Dynamite returned for the first time since the late Eighties, and the following night there was another treat in store for those of us of a certain vintage: a full performance of the 1979 debut album from The Undertones.
It’s impossible for me to be objective about The Undertones. When John Peel famously played all four tracks from their Teenage Kicks EP in 1978 – and then played the whole EP again, later in the same show – I was tuned in, cassette recorder primed. And when the album followed a few months later – along with the classic singles Get Over You, Here Comes The Summer, Jimmy Jimmy and You’ve Got My Number – the Derry five-piece provided the perfect soundtrack for my coming of age.
For many people, the music which they love in their teenage years can never quite be matched for emotional impact, and hearing it again in adulthood can trigger a whole series of powerful memories. And so it was on Thursday night, as four-fifths of the original line-up – plus singer Paul McLoone, who replaced Feargal Sharkey when the band reformed in 1999 – gave a storming performance, their music sounding as fresh and timeless as ever.
The Undertones have never acted like pop stars. Thirty-two years ago, they seemed indistinguishable from their audience, and that “ordinary bloke” quality remains with them today. It helps to explain why Feargal – now a major player within the music industry – could never really be expected to rejoin them. In his place, McLoone – who has now been an Undertone for longer than Sharkey ever was – does a more than creditable job. His voice might have a broadly similar upper register, but there the comparisons end: he is his own man, with his own confident, slightly eccentric performance style.
The set opened with Side One, Track One of the debut album (Family Entertainment), and the remaining thirteen tracks followed in their original sequence. Apart from True Confessions, which was played in its original (and vastly superior) EP version, the songs were played almost exactly as they had been recorded.
Further singles and album tracks followed, including all the later hits: My Perfect Cousin, Wednesday Week, and the underrated It’s Going To Happen. It was the sort of show that reminds you that nostalgia can have a positive purpose; transported back to the heightened emotions of your youth, you remember that the person you once were has shaped the person that you are today. Those teenage dreams: they’re still so hard to beat.
See also: my interview with Damian O’Neill.