Buzzcocks rock the Fine Line: Nevermind anyone else

Categories: Last Night
Adam Bubolz
The Buzzcocks
Pete Shelley's eyes can't keep from rolling.

Seriously, that's what stands out right away. British punk legends the Buzzcocks take the stage, Shelley approaches the mic, barks out the first song, and as they launch into song, his eyes roll.

For a passing moment, a few short seconds as I watched this eyeroll unfold, I was the sort of pissed that leads one to try to encapsulate the moment in present tense when you're writing about it later. Here was possibly the most formative band of my 35 years: the band whose songs I heard via a terrible 80's T&A movie in 1985 which started me down a long path of misspent punk youth; the band that inspired me to get my first fake ID in 1993 when they played First Avenue and I missed it; the band whose guitar leads I'm proud to confess I've blatantly--if unintentionally--ripped off in more than one song for more than one band; the band that for me defines what it means to write the perfect pop hook. And here was Pete Shelley, who now vaguely resembles my father, short, balding, graying and paunchy, rolling his eyes.

And then I realized how perfectly Pete Shelley that eyeroll was--not the eyeroll of a bored, aging rock star who's all but given up any dignity, but the eyeroll of a man who once sang that life was better at sixteen than twenty one, who can hardly believe he still gets to act like a kid on stage 35 years later.

Adam Bubolz
The Buzzcocks
And that, friends, was everything that when through my head in the first twelve seconds of the Buzzcocks' show last night at the Fine Line. Plowing through the first two albums plus can't-miss extras, Shelley, partner in crime and guitar Steve Diggle, and their rhythm section (who've been with the band about as long as the originals were) were relentless in their all-rock-no-banter show. Diggle, who's always been a polar opposite from Pete Shelley's amused disconnect, was especially animated last night, all windmilling arms and pointing guitars either at the crowd or the ceiling with a reckless abandon as pronounced as Shelley's occasional, joking faces for the numerous photographers in the front row or fey eyerolls were subtle. The juxtaposition was striking but somehow perfect for a band whose love of the perfect hook has always hung in tension with their first generation punk attitude and it showed: between the rockstar theatrics from Diggle, Shelley, eyes still rolling, just kept firing song after song after song at the crowd with nary a comment.

Adam Bubolz
The Dollyrots
Yes, there were weak spots. I missed all but the closing moments of openers the Dollyrots--a predictable cover of "Bad Reputation" from this female-fronted pop-punk band--but what I heard wasn't all that striking, and it definitely seemed like a fair number of people spent their set outside on the Fine Line's patio. There were definite signs of age from the Buzzcocks, including a few moments where it was obvious that Diggle's backing vocals on several songs were pre-recorded. And they should have closed with their epic statement of purpose "I Believe." But none of that--the openers, the vocals, the occasional awkward moments of arena rock pacing--none of that really mattered nearly as much as the reckless abandon that Diggle whipped up as Shelley kept everything in the pocket, driving forward through song after song while Diggle threw guitars, launched into an unusual digression in the midst of his best lead vocal "Harmony In My Head," and closed the night with "Orgasm Addict" and a smashed mic stand, then happily shook hands and took a group bow, like the four gents they were: bad attitudes and charm, all around.

Adam Bubolz
The Buzzcocks

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