Boomtown Rats + Patrick Fitzgerald @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 6th November 2013

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Review by David Waterfield,  photos by Lisa Billingham 

Patrick Fitzgerald
Patrick Fitzgerald

I had been looking forward to this gig for months but at the same time I was apprehensive.  The Boomtown Rats are more than just an iconic band with a back catalogue of great songs. In their prime they played with energy and passion and in Bob Geldof they had a poetic, confrontational firebrand who wrote lyrics that I could relate to. I didn’t want them to sound tired or jaded. More than anything I didn’t want them to be irrelevant, raging at a World that has long since changed…

Boomtown Rats
Boomtown Rats

There’s no Gerry Cott or Johnny Fingers these days but four of the original line up – Gary Roberts, Simon Crowe, Pete Briquette and Bob Geldof – have reunited for the first time in 27 years for this this tour, to promote their new ‘best of’ album Back To Boomtown.

The band opened with a double salvo of ‘(I Never Loved) Eva Braun’ and ‘Like Clockwork’ from Tonic For The Troops and didn’t let up for the next 90 minutes. Bob Geldof, wearing a “pretend snakeskin suit” was absolutely mesmerising and he still has all the stage presence that made him such a compelling frontman.

Boomtown Rats
Boomtown Rats

‘Someone’s Looking At You’ seems even more relevant now in an age of Facebook, Twitter, camera phones and internet surveillance. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ is arguably better known than the tragic events (and quote) of 34 years ago that inspired it, but it’s still a brilliant song.

The dub reggae of ‘Banana Republic’ was another highlight. The song is a scathing attack on the Republic of Ireland, written after The Rats were banned from playing there. It gave Geldof – still sweary and opinionated after all these years I’m pleased to say – the chance to let rip at the Catholic Church, the Government and all those who profited on the back of ‘the troubles’ in Ireland.

Boomtown Rats
Boomtown Rats

‘She’s So Modern’, ‘Looking After No 1’ and ‘Mary Of The Fourth Form’ are classic pop/punk singles and they all went down a storm. And then there’s ‘Rat Trap’: a brilliant Springsteen-esque song with a lyric that is as true today as ever. There’s something very cathartic about a large group of people shouting “It’s a Rat Trap Judy!” at the top of their voices! Magnificent.

The Boomtown Rats still pack a considerable punch and Bob Geldof is as charismatic, angry and eloquent as ever. I really hope that this isn’t The Boomtown Rats swansong but if it is, then I’m happy that I was there to witness it. A great night with a great band – and all previous apprehensions dispelled.

Set List: 
1. (I’ve Never Loved) Eva Braun
2. Like Clockwork
3. Neon Heart
4. She’s Gonna Do You In
5. Someone’s Looking At You
6. Joey’s On The Street Again
7. Banana Republic
8. I Don’t Like Mondays
9. She’s So Modern
10. Close As You’ll Ever Be
11. When The Night Comes
12. Mary of the Fourth Form
13. Looking After Number One
14. Rat Trap

Encore 1:
15. Never Bite The Hand That Feeds
16. Diamond Smiles

Encore 2:
17. The Boomtown Rats

See more of Lisa’s photos here: