Into the Pit: 110: Pop Will Eat Itself – Live in Islington – 22-October 2011

2011 will go down as the year of nostalgia more than any other, I suspect. I’ve lost count of how many returning bands, re-issues, retrospectives and the like that I’ve seen…and while it probably isn’t doing a great deal for the future of the music industry, going on the numbers it must be helping the bottom line somewhere. And while I feel slightly uneasy about the whole issue of revisiting the past, I’ll admit that I have got sucked in to it on a number of levels. But when it is some of your favourite bands that are doing it, it is hard to avoid.

Pop Will Eat Itself
supported by DJ Rad Rice
Live @ O2 Academy Islington
22 October 2011

So this is how I found myself at the Poppies’ return to London last night. This is of course their second return – the fondly remembered Reformation gigs in 2005 (I attended the first of the Birmingham shows) being the last time the “proper” PWEI lineup played together. Since then, the band splintered, with Clint Mansell being much better known for his soundtrack work in the US, and Vilevils being formed by Graham Crabb – which then effectively returned to being PWEI last year with a new version of Axe of Men (which was actually pretty awesome).

Which brings us forward to the now – Crabb has got a new band together (including Mary Byker from Gaye Bykers on Acid replacing Mansell, guitarist Tim from Sulpher, and Pitchshifter drummer Jason Bowld – whose website notes PSI are back next year), and recorded a new album. Which has met a mixed response, to be fair – something of a back-loaded album, it has moments of classic PWEI and a few others that are more than a bit “meh”. So I decided to take the chance on seeing it live, mainly thinking that the new stuff might make more sense in that environment, and it would be nice to hear some of the old stuff once again too.

I clearly wasn’t the only one thinking this – the gig sold out a week or two before, and my tardiness in getting one was saved by a friend having a spare. And I’m glad I did go along – a partisan crowd to say the least, it was clear from the number of old T-shirts that there were an awful lot of people there more for a dose of nostalgia than anything else.

And from the start, Graham and the boys were clearly in the mood deliver exactly what the crowd wanted, launching immediately into a few old favourites that turned the whole room into a seething, bouncing mass, happy to sing along with every word they knew. It was notable, though, the difference in reaction to the newer songs – where everyone bounced along a bit, murmured along with a few words, but broadly they were definitely not as well received. Although Chaos & Mayhem in particular sounds ace live.

Interestingly, though, it was the later, original, Poppies material that seemed to glean the most ecstatic reaction. The industrial metal chug of Everything’s Cool nearly took the roof off, while the later pairing of anti-fascist anthem …Auslander (sadly as relevant now as it was upon release in 1994) and the dancefloor monster of Cape Connection was inspired.

PWEI setlist:
Back 2 Business
Wise Up! Sucker
Chaos & Mayhem
Everything’s Cool
Get the Girl! Kill the Baddies!
Seek & Destroy
Oldskool Cool
Ich Bin Ein Auslander
Cape Connection
Preaching to the Perverted
Nosebleeder Turbo TV

Captain Plastic
There Is No Love Between Us Anymore
Their Law

And all the way through the set, new songs were peppered through it, and wisely the band avoided putting too many back to back, keeping the enthusiastic response from the crowd all the way through. The band seemed really happy with things, too, with beaming smiles all the way and bounding all over the stage (Graham and Mary being keen on leaping chest bumps. Oh, some things never get old…).

So an hour or so blasts past, we’re onto the encore, and as proper oldie There Is No Love Between Us Anymore closes, there is the realisation of just how much hasn’t been played. No Can U Dig It?, no Def Con One, no Karmadrome, for a start. Frankly there was entire other set of songs that I’d liked to have heard, but I guess you can’t have it all. So to finish, it was a utter joy for the whole crowd – myself included – to absolutely lose it to Their Law, a song that the Poppies adopted as their own a long time ago (and indeed the Prodigy still play to this day too).

And that was that. Happily dispelling the fears that this wouldn’t feel like a “proper” Poppies show, it might not have had everything we wanted, but the new stuff fits in well. Who’d have thought this band would still be going twenty-five years on?

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