(Photos: wellhamsrus)

How many of the OG punk bands can you still see in concert? The Sex Pistols are unlikely unless Johnny Rotten needs a cash infusion, and there is that lack of Sid Vicious issue. All the Ramones are dead. The Clash ain’t happening since Joe Strummer has passed on. So seeing a Buzzcocks concert in 2016 is a bit of a miracle. Who cares if it’s not all the original members? Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle, responsible for most of the band’s beloved songs from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, are still in tow, and that’s pretty cool.

The band turned in a raucous 75 minute set in front of a more energetic than usual Portland crowd this week as it makes a West Coast swing to commemorate its 40th anniversary. The fans ranged from punks in black leather, to Goths in Dead Can Dance T-shirts, to bearded, sensitive boys who talked about the translations of Aristotle while waiting for the band to come on. The 21 songs went by quickly, most being unruly bursts clocking in at less than three minutes.

Like most punk music, the songs of the Buzzcocks spoke to disaffected youth who didn’t see themselves reflected in the mainstream. So songs about jerking off, unrequited love and suicidal tendencies make sense when the age of the band reflects the content. It can be disconcerting to see a gray, bearded and portly Shelley singing “Orgasm Addict,” but who cares? It’s not like senior citizens don’t masturbate.

Seemingly slowed by a cold, Shelley ceded the limelight to Diggle that night, allowing the guitarist’s theatrics to run front and center. Trim and brimming with energy, Diggle belied his age as he counted off each number, worked the crowd and spit on the stage. After kicking off with “Boredom,” from the band’s 1977 debut EP, the setlist mixed songs old and new, including tracks from 2014 album The Way such as “People are Strange Machines.”

Even though the songs sometimes blended into each other, there were certainly highlights. “You Say Don’t Love Me” was appropriately poppy, and “Nothing Left” from Love Bites (1978) still rocks. Shelley still sounded great, even if he spent a lot of the time between songs blowing his nose and leaving the tissues on the amp. There is certainly nostalgia at play here, but it appears the sheer joy of playing is enough to keep the Buzzcocks up and rocking.

The band saved the best for last, its four-song encore a tetralogy of sacred punk history. Seriously. “What Do I Get?” “Orgasm Addict,” “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)” and “Harmony in My Head.” How can you beat that? Sure, Shelley and Diggle have played these songs countless times, but they dug in with energy, fierce and raw. After the show, Diggle remained on-stage to shake hands and pump fists with the fans that waited to touch the punk legend. Diggle definitely loves what he does. So do we.

  • Oeuvre: David Cronenberg: A History of Violence

    As a nation, we cannot outrun the violence on which America was founded. It is inherent in…
  • Nomadland

    In her third feature film, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland presents an America many of us don’t wan…
  • Minari

    A wide-eyed and open-hearted look at a family in peril of losing everything and the strain…
  • Concert Review: Tool

    Thousands of concertgoers were unwittingly taking part in the last arena performance any o…
  • Concert Review: Refused

    The world still needs bands like Refused. Here’s hoping their next Portland show isn’t pre…
  • Concert Review: The Mountain Goats

    The act of playing three nights to sold-out crowds as a solo artist can be incredibly daun…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Oeuvre: David Cronenberg: A History of Violence

As a nation, we cannot outrun the violence on which America was founded. It is inherent in…