Far Out headed to Ritz in Manchester on Friday night to bear witness to a homecoming gig for one of the city’s most celebrated song-writing partnerships. The outfit has undergone many changes over the years, but punk legends Buzzcocks can still be seen rocking with the best of them thanks to Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle.
As you might imagine, the audience was mostly comprised of men of a certain age, leaving the family back at home for the first Friday of the month in favour of a night out that more than allowed them to slip right back into their youth.
As many bands become older, entering their third, fourth – or in this case even fifth – decade, there is a risk that they can become a parody of themselves, trudging out the hits for the sake of it.
However, as soon as Shelley launches into the set’s opener ‘Boredom’, it is clear that there is still a visceral and quite encapsulating edge to Buzzcocks’ live show.
You would imagine the contrary based on their exterior, but judging the pair on stage presence alone, it must be said that Shelley has aged better. His moodier, more reserved stance still works perfectly now that 70s punk is long dead and he is hurtling towards his sixties.
Diggle, on the other hand, is an unbridled ball of energy throughout. He throws himself into the air with every power cord, pulls faces at those in the front row and even gets a friendly warning-off by Shelley at one point when he gets a little carried away jacking up his amp.
At times this risks spilling over into ‘dad pissed up at a birthday party’ kind of territory, but given the fact that most in the venue have no doubt been there a few times themselves, no one seems to notice.
Diggle’s finest moment of the night probably comes during a rip-roaring encore when he conjures a huge singalong of ‘Harmony in My Head’.
But it is inaugural member Shelley who was the biggest genius in the band’s heyday. He effortlessly marries pop craftsmanship with a DIY ethos, bonding the whole thing together with a lyrical style that communicates disillusion, anger and self-doubt in a way that will never lose its relevance.
The latter portion of the set is where the venue is really set alight. The temperature rockets during ‘Love You More’ and ‘What Do I Get’, before the band very briefly – and slightly formulaically – leave before the encore.
‘Harmony in My Head’, ‘Ever Fallen in Love?’ and ‘Orgasm Addict’ make for a frenzied finale – if not a little awkward when the latter sees Shelley still trying to pull off the sex noises. However, all those leaving the venue look more than satisfied that their idols have retained their raw power for such a long time. It really is no mean feat.