Gig review: The Beat, The Selecter, Stiff Little Fingers and Buzzcocks at Millennium Square, Leeds

Band reunion bundles are becoming increasingly popular to those of a certain age, even when some line-ups have changed beyond all recognition over the years.

Buzzcocks in Millennium Square, Leeds. Picture: Paul Clarke
Buzzcocks in Millennium Square, Leeds. Picture: Paul Clarke

Tonight, we’ve substantial numbers of punks and skins out in force, keeping alive the attitude and fashions of their musical heroes, knowing full well there’s no better way to kick-start a bank holiday weekend than with five-and-a-half hours of all killer no filler punk, reggae and ska tunes that even the famously malevolent Yorkshire weather was powerless to spoil.

Late arrivals may have missed the opening salvos of 2 Tone Records stalwarts The Selecter, Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson rolling back the years despite both probably being well north of 60, producing a barnstorming run through of the bands finest moments including ‘Three Minute Hero’, ‘On My Radio’ and ‘Too Much Pressure’ with a couple of choice covers, The Ethiopians’ ‘Train to Skaville’ and Monty Norman’s ‘James Bond’ thrown in for good measure.

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Birmingham’s The Beat exist in two parallel versions these days, and tonight it’s the Ranking Roger rendition, here to reprise one of the finest two tone back catalogues, opening with the eerily prescient anti-tory call to arms ‘Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret’. Ranking Junior also features in this Beat line-up, both father and son conjuring up performances full of energy, expertly whipping up a somewhat chilly crowd, blasting through classics ‘Too Nice to Talk To’ and ‘Hands off She’s Mine’, then concluding with the tour de force ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’, their memorable cover of ‘Can’t Get Used to Losing You’ tonight’s only notable absentee. We also get a couple of new numbers from latest Beat release ‘Bounce’ and although they sound decent enough and are generally well received, you do wonder how many here will check out this new material and indeed, consider them authentic new Beat songs. With the label celebrating its 40th anniversary next year, it would be great if the two Beats could get together as one, reuniting one of the most underrated acts of the early 80es... we can only hope.

Ranking Roger of The Beat in Millennium Square, Leeds. Picture: Paul Clarke

Between live sets the DJs performed admirably keeping everyone buoyed and as we hit the mid-point interval, the playlist gaining a punkier edge before Jake Burns and Ally McOrdie, together with the rest of their band Stiff Little Fingers graced the stage, getting everyone fired up once more with their punk classic ‘Wasted Life’, a welcome reminder to all how far we’ve all come since the dark days of The Troubles. Fingers’ debut album ‘Inflammable Material’, the first independent LP to break into the UK top 20, still stands up remarkably well with ‘Suspect Device’, ‘Barbed Wire Love’ and ‘Alternative Ulster’ all going down a storm tonight. We even get a belting cover of The Specials’ ‘Doesn’t Make It All Right’ reinforcing the everlasting solidarity between the punk and 2-Tone camps.

With light fading the closing set is provided by Manchester’s favourite kitchen sink punksters Buzzcocks, still containing core members Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle as ‘Boredom’ fills the air. For the uninitiated ‘Singles Going Steady’ is still arguably one of the finest collections of pop songs one could own as Shelley, ever the picture of abject misery, deigns to share these beautifully crafted two-minute delights with everyone including ‘I Don’t Mind’, ‘What Do I Get?’ and the still brilliant ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve’). I even get to see my personal Buzzcocks favourite ‘Why Can’t I Touch It’ played for the first time before everyone departs into the just about dry night, thrilled to have relived their teenage years once more, if only for a few hours.

The Selecter in Millennium Square, Leeds. Picture: Paul Clarke
Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers in Millennium Square, Leeds. Picture: Paul Clarke