Review: Buzzcocks at Belly Up Aspen
Punk rock doesn’t mellow with age. Or at least the punk rock pioneers the Buzzcocks haven’t.
Nearly 40 years to the day after their world culture-shaking first gig with the Sex Pistols at Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England, in 1976, the Brit-punk pioneers tore through a brain-rattling assault of a one-hour set at Belly Up Aspen last week.
There was no banter and no B.S. as the four-piece — led by original members Steve Diggle (guitar) and Pete Shelley (guitar/vocals) — tore through a career-spanning show to a reverent crowd.
With the amps turned up to 11 and Shelley’s guitar aggressively distorted, the band played loud and fast — sending some running for earplugs and leaving this reviewer with ears ringing for a day. But permanent hearing loss never sounded so good. You know it’s a real rock show at Belly Up when the bass’s vibration shakes loose a stray piece or two of confetti from the rafters — which happened here about halfway through the show during a rendition of “Why She’s a Girl From the Chainstore.”
In the old-school punk rock fashion, the Buzzcocks ripped through song after successive song, simply saying the name of the next one on the set list without taking time for more than a breath or two. Their newer material — including a slew of songs from 2014’s “The Way” — fit in comfortably next to the classic tracks from as far back as 1979’s “Singles Going Steady.”
This was the rare group of old guys on stage whose new stuff didn’t send fans wandering off to the bar, but kept them with most of the crowd on the dance floor, where there was pogo-ing aplenty and some friendly moshing, but little of the chaos associated with the band’s early days.
The new track “People are Strange Machines” was a high point of the proper set, along with “Morning After” and “Autonomy.” For the crowd-pleasing, singalong-friendly encore, Shelley swapped guitars and offered a cleaner, clearer sound as the band ran through faithful but full-throated renditions of its best-known songs: “What Do I Get,” “Orgasm Addict,” “Ever Fallen in Love” and “Harmony in My Head.” With that, and a simple “Thank you very much,” they walked off stage to the gritty warble of feedback.
Back in 2013, while working on a proposed box set of archival recordings, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge came across a group of songs that had been recorded in the late 1980s but never released.
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