Review and Photos by Tony BonyataWith the recent renaissance of bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs and even Chicago's own The Dirty Things reinventing angular '80s post-punk dance-rock, the progenitors of this infectious genre, Gang of Four, felt the time was right to step from the shadows and reclaim the punk-funk throne they originally abandoned in the mid-'90s. But it's not only this new breed of rocker that has been inspired by this foursome's unique brand of music. Higher profile artists such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Killing Joke, U2's Bono and INXS' late singer Michael Hutchence have all cited Gang of Four's politically-charged disco held together by spit and safety pins as an influence on their work as well.
After years of being hounded with pleas to reform from promoters and fans alike, the original four founding members of Gang of Four (vocalist Jon King, guitarist and vocalist Andy Gill, bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham) have finally acquiesced for a one-month tour of the U.S., which saw them touch down for a two-night stint at Chicago's Metro last week.
With no new material to promote, this Leeds, England quartet were, nonetheless, greeted like royalty from the room full of aging hipsters and handful of curious youngsters in search of the true color of The Futureheads' roots. In fact, of the thirteen numbers they performed during their first night in Chicago, eleven of them were from their first two signature albums - 1979's Entertainment! and 1981's Solid Gold. And considering that this is the material that has directly influenced the current state of indie music, it couldn't have sounded timelier.
The foursome wasted little time in setting the tone of the evening as they broke into the spastic dance track "Return The Gift," followed by the equally strong "Not Great Men" and the geniculated brilliance of "Ether." Throughout these numbers, the disjointed, breakneck rhythms from Allen and Burnham, along with Gill's jarring and often dissonant guitar strains, fueled the smartly-dressed and keenly groomed King into fits of rhythmic convulsions - complete with gyrating hips and flailing limbs. As the intensity rose to an orgasmic cacophony towards the end of "Ether" King was struck by a primal animalistic urge as he flounced on all fours and tore across the stage like an enraged wildebeest.
During the number "Anthrax" Gill and King sang against the grain of one another (which has become a Gang of Four trademark) before the stoic guitarist unleashed a crumbling wall of unnerving feedback over Burnham's incessant metronomic beat. King then led the band into "Why Theory?" as he blew into his melodica and sashayed stage right with a pair of maracas. Throughout "He'd Send in the Army" the charismatic frontman grabbed a baseball bat and proceeded to beat the UHF out of an old television set in a slow rhythmic fashion until the appliance was little more than of pile of plastic shards and spent circuitry by song's end.
Not ones to forget where they came from the foursome ended the evening with their epochal 1978 single "Damaged Goods," a Molotov cocktail of deconstructionist dance-punk, which threw the entire crowd into a throbbing, pogoing frenzy.
Staking claim to a music genre they originally created with the ferocity of Ben Hur hailing a chariot, Gang of Four's live show only solidified how important this band once was... and still is. Now if we can only get another album out of them...
Gang of Four 05.11.05 Setlist
Return the Gift
Not Great Men
I Parade Myself
What We All Want
At Home He's A Tourist
He'd Send in the Army
Natural's Not In It
To Hell With Poverty!
We Live As We Dream. Alone
Here's Your Chance to.... Respond!
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