Let’s skip over the atypical (and sometimes irrelevant) review introduction for every old-school punk gig to happen in Belfast, repeating the well-spoken gospel of our little city, and get straight into the present day.
Originally, the notorious East-Enders (and loyal West Ham super fans) Cockney Rejects were to grace the stage of the more intimate Pavilion Bar. However, due to a “particular situation” involving the promoter and fear of cancellation, the gig was fortunately moved into the Limelight to the delight of many punters, and I’m sure this move made things all the better for the bands involved.
The Rejects have stayed strong against the tectonic shifts of the music business for over 40 years, producing a plethora of singles and albums, treading the stages of major venues and festivals such as Rebellion, as well as producing a very entertaining documentary – the 2012 ‘East End Babylon’ reflecting their war stories and youthful antics. I’m sure the well-read punk enthusiast has come across more detailed accounts of their infamous early-career live performances, or ruckuses should I say.
The line-up for this show definitely sated the appetites of the 80’s punks and skins effectively, with plenty of oi (oi oi) for their buck. A quick look around the room was enough to justify that statement. However, a refreshing cluster of fervent younger punks and skins in attendance were keeping the spirit and style alive in their own way.
First up, all the way from Derry, trio No Collusion took to the stage in boot-boy fashion, traditional swallow tattoos on show just below the sleeve of the tight Fred Perry, and mandatory Doc Martins polished and laced accordingly. As proclaimed by their frontman, the band have been together for around 4 months, and their set was punchy and provided some serious 4-chord ramalama. With a couple of energetic originals under their braces, the band also balanced their set out with covers by their peers UK Subs, IDLES and 4Skins – done well and with a bit of attitude too! The lads were supported and humorously heckled by their mates giving it ninety at the barrier for their whole set, with one coerced to come onstage and take the mic for a number. My advice to the lads would be to pose about a bit more, and bring their mate on as the 4th member, he works really well in the mix. Great stuff lads!
With a sickly Darzo taking to the stage, Takers and Users provided the oi punk tunage (with plenty of light-hearted back-n-forth in between) to get the growing crowd in the mood for tonight’s headliners. Appropriately warmed up from the night before supporting New Yorkers The Casualties – the band were on top form and ready for round 2. The four lads vigorously raced through their 45-minute set with power and aggression, with the crowd on their side throughout. Highlights of their set included the incredibly well-received ‘Glory Days’ which had punters in the front row enthusiastically pogo-ing, pushing each other about and spilling drinks left-right and centre; as well as their homage to Runnin’ Riot with ‘Judge, Jury and Executioner’ which saw the band close their set. Let’s hope Darzo got the paracetamol in him and an early night, staying away from that awful bad boy juice Bucky!
Jeff ‘Stinky’ Turner took to the stage boxing the air and shaking hands with the die-hard fans, with the Hammers supporters crying out their allegiance and letting the Cockney Rejects know they are among their own. Kicking off with ‘War On The Streets’ – Jeff, Mick and the boys started off as they meant to go on, with intensity. Crunchy guitars were met with pounding drums and bass, topped with Stinky’s cockney snarl and home exercise instruction video stage moves with fists and legs kept up throughout. Punters were bouncing off the barrier as the band kept bombarding their legion with street punk gospel. The crowd’s reaction got more outrageous as the Rejects broke into the “hits” such as their acclamation (one of an array) to the Hammers ‘We Are The Firm’, and ‘I’m Not A Fool’. Mick was able to show off his shredding skills to ‘The Rocker’ which saw solos-a-go-go being let loose from the PA! Each song was introduced with Stinky’s amicable story-telling and charm.
But the best was yet to come for their fans with sonic treats such as ‘The Great Cockney Rip Off’, ‘Join The Rejects’ (and get your head kicked in), ‘Flares n’ Slippers’, the cover of West Ham’s theme song ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, and the tantamount ‘OI OI OI’ as the set closer!
Whilst I’m writing from the perspective of someone who isn’t overly a fan of the band, Cockney Rejects surely keep the energy levels up and crowd motivated, performing an incredibly tight set and always aiming to please with a lengthy set laden with fan favourites.