Artist: Gang of Four Video: 'You'll Never Pay for the Farm' Highlight: The…
- Posted on Feb 9th 2011 12:20PM by Kenneth Partridge
Caitlin Mogridge, Redferns
Thirty-five years later, the world hasn't much changed, which is probably why Gang of Four still pull off the kind of performance they gave Tuesday night at New York City's Webster Hall. The band is touring behind 'Content,' its first proper studio album since 1995, and if the new songs fail to summon the anger and austere power of their late-'70s and early-'80s counterparts, they don't miss by much.
The Gang opened with 'Never Pay for the Farm,' a terse 'Content' track, followed by 'Not Great Men' and 'Ether,' dystopian-disco classics from 1979's 'Entertainment!' one of the greatest and most influential albums of the post-punk era. To the group's credit, those first three tunes felt more or less of a piece, with Andy Gill's scraping guitars and the neurotic grooves of drummer Mark Heaney and bassist Thomas McNeice -- both of whom joined following the band's 2004 reunion -- providing a through-line from past to present.
Singer Jon King, all wound up with no instrument to beat on, gave in to periodic spastic fits, nearly colliding with McNeice on 'I Parade Myself' and giving Gill a shove on 'Ether.' King wore a partially buttoned leather shirt bordering on too small, and as he sweated and twitched, he looked about as comfortable as one should singing songs with titles like 'Anthrax,' 'At Home, He's a Tourist' and 'We Live as We Dream, Alone.' On the thumping dance-punk standout 'To Hell With Poverty,' he lurched about like a lefty pamphleteer looking to infiltrate a nightclub.
On record, King can sound like a killjoy, singing suspiciously of love, sex and other modern pleasures, but there's at least one thing he likes: New York City. Early in the evening, he recalled visiting with Gill in the '70s and venturing down to CBGB, the Bowery nightclub that arguably gave birth to punk.
"This is fantastic!" King said later, as the band answered the crowd's call for a second encore. "I love this place." Of course, he ended with 'Damaged Goods,' which contains the iconic line, "Sometimes I think I love you/but I know it's only lust," and it's a good thing he did. For a second there, fans almost got too caught up in the escapism to remember what they were escaping.