It was almost sunny as I motored along Marine Drive, the friendly-looking mounds of the Coastal Mountains, lightly shrouded in fog, the arbutus leaves unfathomly green, not a snow bank in sight. It's very hard to miss Calgary when in Vancouver.
The first day of this mini-break was filled with sushi, curry, wandering Kitsilano in the rain, Thrift store finds, snuggling under comforters watching the Westminster Dog Show, and finally heading back out into the night to be (as the frontman for the Hollerados so eloquently put it) fucked so hard by the always relevant, always passionate Gang of Four.
The show was held right on the wrong side of Granville Street, across from the Commodore Ballroom, at a rather skeevy joint called The Venue, where seats are a rare commodity and every surface is sticky. The OFKAR and I though, if nothing else, know how to concert. We arrived at door opening and secured the best seats in the joint, up on the second level directly overlooking the stage. With stools to sit on.
I quite liked the openers, Hollerado, from Manotick, just outside of Ottawa. They played a rather lengthy high-octane set, nicely interspersed with self-deprecating digs and, as is only fitting for a Gang of Four opener, politically charged observations. They nicely and very capably set the tone for Gang of Four, the highly influential, highly revered, funk-driven and socially-intellectual British punk mavens, to take the stage.
Oh and did they take that stage! Though only vocalist, Jon King, and guitar god, Andy Gill, remain as original members, this incarnation of Gang of Four has lost none of their passion, none of their intelligence, none of their vitality. With a young, hot, and vibrant rhythm section doing an admirable job of melding with the old guard, Gang of Four remain an extremely tight, aggressively charged force of nature.
In a nose-thumbing statement to the mores of ageism and political rhetoric, it was an interesting juxtaposition of style to see Jon King, pushing sixty, thrash passionately about the stage in a near shirt-less state with Andy Gill maintaining a stone-faced buttoned-down demeanor, while laying down some of the most aggressively angular guitar riffs in memory. Further capitalizing on mind-bending differences within band dynamics was the new bassist, Thomas McNeice, a dreadlocked, pin-striped runway model who kept an authoritative hammerlock on the band's signature bassline.
Gang of Four were incredible. There were a few issues with the mics at the beginning of the set, muffling the vocals and resulting in some screeching feedback, but the aggressive rhythm and funk-powered staccato were forefront and so gloriously and so powerfully Gang of Four that it was easy to overlook the fact that it was a well middle-aged man, shirt held on by a single button, who was doing a frantic gyrating merman dance onstage betwixt manhandling his bandmates.
Strangely enough, Gang of Four did not play At Home He Looks Like a Tourist, perhaps their most well-known song, but then, they have a very deep and very fine back-catalogue to mine. Nor did they play Armalite Rifle or Guns Before Butter. But I was thrilled that they absolutely killed Damaged Goods, Anthrax, and, even though the creeper who kept hanging over our shoulders and trying to engage us in increasingly unbelievable boasts almost ruined the song for me, I Love a Man in Uniform. You bet I shot back at Jon King when he pointed his gun finger up at us.
Even discounting the lack of snow and the cosy time with the OFKAR, Gang of Four alone was worth the trip to Vancouver. Friend visits still to come, too!