“We must resist, we must resist…seek righteousness, seek honesty; be polite, be dignified – that’s all I’ve gotta say.” A physically less able David Thomas opened his set on this message in the face of current political and economic corruption and what he sees as the negative influence of social media in suppressing revolution. He has recently released the next chapter of Pere Ubu’s journey known as ‘Trouble on Big Beat Street’, the band’s 19th studio album, which they performed in its majority.
Pere Ubu headed straight into a series of new album tracks with the slamming ‘Love Is Like Gravity; its soaring theremin and free clarinet played by new members to the lineup, Jack Jones (real name Keirsty Boon; theremin, bongos, percussion) and Alex Ward (clarinet, guitar, backing vocals) respectively, and plucky guitar by long standing member Keith Moliné. They also played new track ‘Moss Covered Boodongle’, featuring Thomas’ repetitive vocals being sung into a corded telephone and then another new song, the circus-like ‘Nyah Nyah Nyah’, with its whistling theremin.
The band performed two versions of new track ‘Let’s Pretend’, first with its stealthy guitar and stripped down drums, transforming into jazzy guitar, and afterwards rehearsing it with Jones on bongos, then interrupted by Thomas saying, “That’s enough.” They finished this segment of the set list by playing another new song, ‘Crocodile Smile’, with its hyper synth beams and noise rock chaos, Andy Diagram (Two Pale Boys) now on stage on trumpet; the track later ended on a springy synth and clarinet interaction and Thomas’ wails and demented guitar. Thomas conducted the band during the performance to play and stop, with them going over slightly to his great annoyance and frustration, causing him to reprise the track later in the set.
In the meantime they moved onto the clatter and surging electronics of their 1975 debut single ‘30 Seconds Over Tokyo’ with its noise rock finish, returning to the new release with the cool trumpet of film noir soundtrack ‘Movie In My Head’ and the gothic organ and hopeless slog of ‘Satan’s Hamster’. It was at this point that Thomas threw a tantrum over needing a cigarette following the stress of ‘Crocodile Smile’, which resulted in him lighting up illegally onstage.
The band performed The Osmonds’ cover that appears on the album, ‘Crazy Horses’, before finishing on their new single, ‘Worried Man Blues’; a choppy track with the squealing clarinet mimicking a blues harmonica, Thomas’ powerfully emotive vocals setting the scene of the story. Towards the end of their set, he played a plastic trombone in ‘George Had a Hat’ from 1988’s ‘The Tenement Year’, with the instrument falling apart but him continuing to play it because at this point he was feeling “much better.” A rare performance by the legendary group that made it the second best show of the year so far.
02/06/23: Pere Ubu @ Rich Mix, London.
Photos © Ayisha Khan.
© Ayisha Khan.