LIVE REVIEW: UK Subs, Think Tank?, Newcastle, Saturday 30 November 2019

Charlie Harper of UK Subs performing at Think Tank? in Newcastle. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Forty years ago, Another Kind Of Blues, the debut album by the legendary UK Subs, rattled the foundations of the musical establishment with its ferocious mix of old school R&B and social commentary-fuelled punk rock.  In frontman Charlie Harper, they had their very own talisman to match the likes of Johnny Rotten and Captain Sensible.

Four decades on it was time to celebrate by playing the whole album in full, from start to finish, in its original running order, meaning CID pressed the ignite button, followed swiftly by the fury of I Couldn’t Be You and I Live In A Car.

With no photo pit or crash barrier the crowd was right up against the stage, and their energy fed off the passion and power on stage. Harper relished every minute of it, raising his can of beer at every opportunity and handing out a few to thirsty punters too.

UK Subs were celebrating the 40th anniversary of debut album Another Kind Of Blues at Think Tank? in Newcastle. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Killer had the floor a heaving mass of leather and studs, while a pair of red-mohawked punks bobbed and bounced throughout before launching themselves across the heads of the crowd.

Only Harper remains from the line-up that made the album, but bassist Alvin Gibbs joined soon after and brought some real attitude to the show with his black leather jacket and bass swung way down low. Steve Straughan on guitar and drummer Jamie Oliver more than did the classics justice with a spirited performance bristling with energy.

Alvin Gibbs of UK Subs at Think Tank? in Newcastle. Pic: Mick Burgess.

The fast and furious Disease and the classic Stranglehold brought the main set to a triumphant close, with 17 songs delivered in quick succession – no fat or flab, just in-your-face punk rock.

At 75 years old, Harper is a national punk treasure and has lost none of his spirit or energy, while oozing charisma, and putting many half his age to shame.  Whatever he’s on, it should be bottled and prescribed by the NHS.

An extended encore kept the pot boiling, with Warhead seeing more of the crowd on stage than on the floor, and adding a new meaning to gang vocals on the chorus.  A beaming Harper enjoyed every minute as the fans politely left the stage at the end of the song, just in time for Party In Paris to be renamed Party In Newcastle.

Charlie Harper of UK Subs at Think Tank? in Newcastle. Pic: Mick Burgess.
Mick Burgess