by James Fleming
The New Wave, has gotten old.
But the tunes haven’t aged a day. Timelessness is almost impossible to achieve. Yet, both the acts onstage on this rainy Friday night who, as so-called “New-Wave,” acts, could both easily fall into a parody of what they originally represented back in the late seventies, prove that great times are truly timeless.
The Undertones are the greatest representation of reckless teenage abandon, in song, currently stalking the planet today. Formed way back in 1974, it’s easy to see how the aforementioned “parody,” could come into play…
Thankfully, they storm through their set with earnestness and delight, soaking up every ounce of the crowd’s approval. It’s also refreshing to note that the crowd sing along, not just to ‘Teenage Kicks,’ but also to ‘Here Comes The Summer,’ ‘Jimmy Jimmy,’ ‘Get Over You,’ and every other finely crafted pop-punk tune of their considerable setlist.
The Undertones received well deserved praise from their luminaries and from such notable figures as John Peel, who famously played ‘Teenage Kicks,’ twice in a row on his radio show. And it’s for nights such as this that they received such heaps of praise. Feargal Sharkey’s replacement on vocals, Paul McLoone, is an inspired choice of frontman. He leaps across the stage with all the grace and style of a teenager, hip cocked and with his adolescent falsetto soaring out of the speakers.
It’s all about fun. It’s impossible to take their set too seriously, and why would you want to? While the pop-cultural importance of ‘Teenage Kicks,’ cannot be underestimated, it’s still all about teenage lust, love and good times. That’s what The Undertones are: a damned good time…
There’s a similar risk of parody with Elvis Costello. What once was an angry young man could very easily become a bitter old curmudgeon.
However, the man born Declan MacManus far from disappoints. He brings the venom of his early records while proving to us that his songs will stand the test of time. He opens with ‘Pump It Up,’ which dates back to his second album This Year’s Model and shortly afterwards launches into a thrilling rendition of ‘Watching The Detectives,’ his fourth single.
However, while the studio recordings of these songs will always hold up, it still takes tremendous skill to get up and perform them to a crowd. Attacking his guitar with force and vigour, Elvis has the audience between his teeth. And we love it.
There’s a nod to The Who, too many sing-a-longs to count and an encore that stretches the curfew to breaking point. There’s dancing, a shout out to the members of the crowd who remember the days of gigs in Leisure Land and a back catalogue of some of the finest songs ever committed to tape, all for just €50.
Elvis proves that we needn’t have worried. His new backing band, the Imposters, do his stellar songbook proud. The rhythm section is solid as a mountain and his piano/keyboard player brings a flair for synthesiser noise and gorgeous grand piano playing. Elvis’ own guitar playing, so often overlooked, is like a glorious melding of Buddy Holly’s chordal guitar solos and Hendrix-esque wailing. He still has that anger, but he brings the fun tonight.
He emerged from the oft-maligned New Wave era unscathed, but tonight in the Galway International arts Festival’s Absolut Big Top, he proves even the harshest of nay-sayers wrong. Gone is the knock-kneed whippersnapper that glared from the cover of My Aim Is True, in his place is one of the finest tunesmiths of this or any age.
They may have aged, but there’s still nothing on earth like The Undertones’ and Costello’s brand of spiky, youthful abandon. The New wave did themselves proud.