On their first UK tour since reforming with this new lineup consisting of founding members Jon King (vocals) and Hugo Burnham (drums) alongside new additions David Pajo (guitar, backing vocals) and Sara Lee (bass), the band performed an explosive set but without their late founding guitarist, Andy Gill, who tragically passed away in 2020 and whose departure ended the previous lineup. The gaping hole of his absence was noticeable throughout their set.

Similarly to when he was previously in the band with Gill, a highly energetic King ran around the stage dancing to the funky basslines of ‘Not Great Men’ before the erratic clatter of ‘Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time’. They focussed heavily on the band’s 1979 debut album, ‘Entertainment!’, singing the dual vocals of ‘Ether’, which saw Pajo attempting to do Gill’s vocal parts but neither his playing nor spoken word could even begin to replicate the unique overlapping interaction of the founding pair in the track, although he did a better job at producing the track’s demented guitar chimes that built to a crescendo with Burnham’s drum bashings.

Pajo’s wild guitar feedback introduction and bridge instrumental in ‘Love Like Anthrax’ also fell short of Gill’s guitar antics but this was quickly forgotten in the next song, ‘He’d Send in the Army’, which saw King in traditional fashion beating an old microwave with a baseball bat – as in the band’s live performances back in the day – and an oriental guitar solo in the funky ‘I Parade Myself’, from ‘Shrinkwrapped’; King strolled around the stage like a model doing flamboyant gestures amongst his absurd frog hops.

The stomp of ‘What We All Want’ from Gang of Four’s second studio album ‘Solid Gold’, contained Pajo’s well wrought t]out elasticated guitar strains and feedback. King emphasised the macho mockery of 1982 single ‘I Love a Man in Uniform’, which, while containing great female backing vocals from the band’s three singers, was played at too fast a pace. The band ended their set on their 1981 single ‘To Hell with Poverty’, with its guitar highs and lows (but other parts not played at all well) bouncing basslines and King’s banshee wails. The encore included their very first single, ‘Damaged Goods’, which was largely sung by the audience as King held out the microphone. An excellent performance from King that made for an electric performance but the loss of Gill was unsettlingly aroar.

06/10/23: Gang of Four @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

Photo (as watermarked) © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.