Monday, March 24

REVUE// The Sonics at Le Beat Bespoké 4;;

The biggest problem with bands who reform decades after the event is the 'soft in their old age' dilemma. The last years have seen this curse strike again and again, from the flaccid Sex Pistols comeback to the Jam-without-Weller fiasco and the soulless prog-nonsense of the reformed Who... even X-Ray Spex are charging thirty quid a pop for their Roundhouse reunion later this year. With all this defiance of the 'hope I die before I get old' spirit in the air, the biggest dangers facing The Sonics as they played their first-ever UK shows since their messy 1967-8 break-up were incoherence, obsolescence, and musical flab.

Thankfully, the sagging tonight is confined to the waistlines, and the music flexes its muscles all night with a taut and energetic set of garage rock classics. A support set by The Horrors, featuring a resurrection of 'Crawdaddy Simone' as well as new material, is the first thing that faces the occupants of Kentish Town Forum on the Sunday of the Le Beat Bespoké 4 Weekender, after promoter Rob Bailey has announced (to at least one cheer) the cancellation of a planned appearance by former Libertines frontman Pete Doherty. The Horrors, playing their last show before a break to record their second album, get a fair response from a crowd psyched up for straight garage rock, especially considering the band's new, almost gothic, direction. The fact that many of the pointier-shoed, bigger-haired members of the audience stay towards the front after the last organ chord has echoed into the air shows the debt that The Sonics are owed by their support band.

Those who do stay forward have made the right decision: twenty minutes later, the brutal riff of 'He's Waitin' ' rings out from Larry Parypa's Epiphone and The Sonics boom into life. Naturally few if any of the audience have seen them live before their 2007 reunion, but the energy that the five-piece band put into the music would shame a band forty years younger: Gerry Roslie's bellows and screams defy the passage of the decades, and the songs - 'Strychnine', 'Have Love, Will Travel', 'Psycho' - show how extensive and influential the band's back catalogue is.

'We'd love to play 'til three or four in the morning,' claims saxophonist and vocalist Rob Lind at one point, and the energetic spirit and sense of dangerous fun that fills the room as the set climaxes is testament to the continued force and aggression of a band with an average age approaching 60. The closing chord of 'The Witch' ringing in the ears of of an ecstatic crowd swarming into taxis to head to the after-party was final proof that the band deserve every 'legendary' tag that's flung at them, and that you don't need to be angry young men to serve a majestic, aggressive, and thoroughly enjoyable helping of the finest garage punk known to mankind.

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