Review by Rob Billingham, photos by Lisa Billingham
With the current UK tour approaching halfway, Leamington Spa was tonight’s stop for the nostalgia train that is the Boomtown Rats and to a lesser extent Republica, alternate rockers from the 90’s.
With two decades, give or take, separating the times when both bands came to prominence, how would Republica fare in front of a crowd not necessarily of their generation? Well, with a supremely confident Saffron (Samantha Sprackling) in charge of things there was never a problem. With huge doses of electro pop courtesy of keyboardist Tim Dorney, and amazingly infectious heavy drums by relative new boy Conor Lawrence prominent, guitarist Jonny Glue seemed almost a bit player, but, always quietly in control of things he ensured that the band were as tight as a lock-nut.
Serving up a couple of new tracks; ‘German Accent’ and ‘Hallelujah’ with old faves ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ and of course the one that has become their signature tune ‘Ready To Go’, in a relatively short set, it’s clear that Republica have brought themselves impressively into the 2010s and this tour will win them many more fans, I’m sure. Highlight for me was the excellent ‘Christiana Obey’. Memories of Gary Numan, OMD and Human League all made very modern and up to date by the beautiful Saffron and the boys.
With a heaving Assembly royally entertained by Republica, it was up to Sir Bob and the Rats to show that the 70’s was also a good time to be a musician. So, scene set and intro track blasting out “THE BOOMTOWN RATS” when from the wings that most unmistakable of voices said his introductions; “LEAMINGTON SPA…..ARE YOU FUCKING READY? YOU LITTLE LEMMINGS, YOU”. The greeting was bestowed upon a crowd chomping at the bit in eager anticipation.
Nowadays playing minus Johnny Fingers and Gerry Cott, the Rats still have an energy that spits in the face of their advancing years. It may have taken the first couple of songs for the infamous Geldof vocal chords to get fully warmed up, but by the time the bluesy Feelgood-esque ‘She’s Gonna Do You In’ came along, Bob was on the money, his harmonica skills also coming to the fore in this one. There’s no doubting who the stage belongs to when Bob’s around. Perhaps in part to the fact he moves around so much and eyes just have to follow, although in all honesty he doesn’t really have to try. His very presence as the frontman of this iconic band always was and still is something it’s hard to ignore or forget.
We were even told the story of the fake snakeskin suit about which I’d heard a few people mumble “he wore that suit last year as well!” It appears that finding it in some pokey little room put the fire back in his loins and Bobby Boomtown was re-born! Wouldn’t wanna be responsible for cleaning it! Sir Bob is never short of a word or two and he likened the fact that the Rats songs do not need changing in any way to be any better now than they were then to the world today also not having changed, citing Obama, Apple, Facebook and Google for listening to phone calls, changing e-mails and selling songs to the highest bidder. I must add that these are not necessarily the views of The Midlands Rocks or any of its editors, employees or associates! But boy, did it get a cheer! Fittingly that led into ‘Someone’s Looking At You’. Although closely linked to the punk movement, I’m not convinced that musically they were ever really that sort of band. OK, sometimes outspoken as befits that genre and with the look of the time I suppose that would be the assumption, but when the band rattled off ‘Banana Republic’ (written in response to them being banned from playing in their homeland), ‘Mary Of The 4th Form’, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ and ‘Rat Trap’ the individuality of the sound they had come flooding back.
Sir Bob was right as well. The songs don’t need changing, updating or re-writing. They are as fresh now as they were then. It’s just a matter of how much longer they can go on producing this sort of performance. I guess as long as the faux-snakeskin suit holds up!
1. (I Never Loved) Eva Braun
2. Like Clockwork
3. Neon Heart
4. (She’s Gonna) Do You In
5. Someone’s Looking At You
6. Banana Republic
7. She’s So Modern
8. I Don’t Like Mondays
9. Close As You’ll Ever Be
10. Mary Of The 4th Form / I Wanna Be Your Man / Boom Boom
11. Looking After No 1
12. Rat Trap
13. Me And Howard Hughes
14. Diamond Smiles
15. The Boomtown Rats