Tonight’s 2019 Vive le Rock Awards was always going to be a broad musical church, what with a mix of punk, new wave and glam artists populating the bill.
That said, the spirit of punk hangs heavily on a night of fun filled frolics, some chaos and occasional moments of musical inspiration.
The audience demographics are surprisingly cross generational, but with a smattering of T shirts bearing the logos of Allen Sex Fiend, Spizzergy, Killing Joke, The Zeros, Conflict, The Damned, Motorhead and The Stranglers (who turn out to be tonight’s mystery guest band), you can be forgiven for thinking you’ve hopped on a time machine back to the 70′s.
The Le Viva Rock house band is fronted by a vivacious sombrero wearing front man who leads the band into some high volume, surf inflected twang and B-movie western style themes complete with mariachi trumpet. They even throw in an irreverent tribute to Shakin’ Stevens with a cover of ‘Green Door’.
Event organiser and Vive Le Rock editor Eugene Butcher sets about overcoming a seriously croaked voice to give the evening its context.
He introduces tonight’s first special guest, the well preserved and dapper Glen Matlock, who like some of his contemporaries in the crowd looks more like an accountant than a punk rock icon.
He quickly engages the crowd in the sing-along ‘Sexy Beast’, and extends the crowd connection with a call and response version of ‘Pretty Vacant’, suggesting Punk has quietly slipped into well beyond middle age.
He returns for a surprise appearance by The Rich Kids who are now a guitar driven a high octane rock band with three part harmonies including impromptu front man Midge Ure. They bring fresh impetus to ‘Sound Of Marching Men’ and ‘Ghost of Princes in Towers.’
And so to the first of a string of awards with MC Ed Tudor-Pole who is introduced as busy polishing his sword. He in turn welcomes Rat Scabies, who gives Barry Masters from Eddie & the Hot Rods a well deserved ‘Pioneering Award’.
Glen Matlock returns again to introduce The Blue Carpet Band for their ‘Best New Band Award’, and it’s good to see Neville Staple (The Specials) and Christine ‘Sugary’ Staple from his band accepting an award for The Beat and the late Ranking Roger, as part of the Roots-Ska/rock n’ Roll and Blues award. It’s a kitchen sink and all award that just about mirrors tonight’s broad musical span.
The spirit of punk burns brightest when Animal from hardcore punk outfit Anti Nowhere League swears his way through his acceptance speech to pick up the ‘Best Re-issue Award’ for ‘Burning Britain: A Story of Independent UK Punk 1980-83′. Ironically it’s a time-span footnote almost beyond reach of a lot of tonight’s musicians and fans.
The poignant ‘Rock In Peace Award’ is presented by Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle in memory of the late Pete Shelley. Diggle is joined by Penetration’s Pauline Murray and soon the room is filled with the Buzzcocks anthems ‘Harmony In My Head’ and a ragged, but enjoyable ’Ever Fallen In Love’.
Madness sax player Lee Thompson pops up to take the ‘Best Film Award’ for ‘Lee Thompson: One Man’s Madness’, though like several of the later announcements his acceptance speech is all but inaudible.
Jim Jones from The Righteous Mind presents the ‘Best Live Band Award’, to Stiff Little Fingers drummer Dave Grantley and Idles may have won the ‘Best Album Award’, but with a malfunctioning screen above the stage it is difficult to tell.
However, Jackie Chambers and Kim McAuliffe from Girlschool get a great reception as they present the ‘Iconic Award’ to Suzi Quatro.
Rock’s first successful female bass player, Suzi appears remarkably well preserved and she reminds us that she’s celebrating her 55th anniversary, before an all too brief ‘Sweet Little Rock & Roller’. A perfunctory wave and she’s gone in a blur.
‘The Maverick Award’ is more problematical, as there are plenty of contenders in the room, but Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman pops up to take the award, suggesting that Killing Joke’s reformed post punk metal edge is a durable as most other musical genres.
And as the beers kick in and the crowd volume grows, it’s back to a mass sing-along with Barry Masters from Eddie & The Hot Rods and ‘Teenage Depression’, ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ and ‘Get Out of Denver’, a reminder that somewhere in between the punk angst there was always room for a great pub rock band.
Ed Tudor-Pole returns for ‘Swords of A Thousand Men’, with Juliet Hodges (Chas’s daughter) guesting on keys. It feels as if a Top Of The Pops video has come to life.
Tonight’s finale is hard work. Ironically for a show fuelled by the DIY spirit of Punk, we wait an eternity for the barely announced ‘Best Band Of the Year Award’, which is missed by about 20% of the crowd who drift off thinking its all over.
The Stranglers finally shuffle on for a muscular set that offers a collective flashback to 45 years ago.
And once we overcome the shock of The Stranglers and Stiff Little fingers carrying off 2019 silverware, we join the throng, throw our beer in the air and wallow in nostalgia, after all it’s that kind of night.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Mark Hughes
Album review (Suzi Quatro)
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