Gang of Four / Tom Tom Club

Meltdown 2008

published: Mon 23rd Jun 2008

Tom Tom Club

Saturday 14th to Tuesday 24th June 2008
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX, England MAP
varies dependant on event from £12 to £30
last updated: Thu 12th Jun 2008

It's amazing to think that the Meltdown festival has been going for 15 years now. With such luminaries as John Peel, David Bowie and Jarvis Cocker as previous curators it's retained an effortless cool with regard to eclecticism and a mix and match system that seems to work effectively so that a wide range of the musical spectrum is on show.

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The Royal Festival Hall is a venue without any down home and dirty feel. It is pristine in appearance and seems ideal for the radio 4 listeners wild night out. There are boxes to the side, which look like gigantic industrialised computer parts and it's only a matter of time before it’s used in an episode of Dr.Who. It sets up a kind of sedate atmosphere so is a small challenge for the opening act to overcome.

Tom Tom Club have been around, off and on, longer that some of the oldest donkeys out there but they're no asses. At 8.15pm the 7-piece band come out to play. Within minutes you know they’re enjoying themselves up there with bassist and nominal front woman, Tina Weymouth, chatting to the crowd in a relaxed way and looking a bit like Meg Ryan's sister in the right light. They introduce a song form the first album as 'now-stalgia' which is a good a way as any to mix the old with the new. 'She's Dangerous' is dedicated to Condelessa Rice and by the time 'The Man with the 4 Way Hips' swaggers into it's slow funk groove you get the feeling that this band are just getting better and better as the songs unfold.

Tom Tom Club


'Genius of Love' follows – a song sampled by the wonderful Grandmaster Flash at the time – and is mesmerising and just darn fantastic fun. Four of the band slump to the floor and whirl around during the guitar solo and it's hard to suppress a smile at any adult that does that in front of you. They always were about the fun and this dial remains steady at 8 out of 10. A joyful cover of Hot Chocolate's 'You Sexy Thing' gets most of the audience up and dancing and their main hit, 'Wordy Rappinghood' brings the set to a close.

They're not supposed to have encores but the Tom Toms return for a cracking version of their parent band, Talking Heads', 'Take Me to the River'. Ok, it's not strictly their song (Al Green takes the credit for the song) but they made it their own by covering it in a way that gave them ownership points by proxy.... well almost. Anyway, this is a digression, as it's a fitting ending to a superb performance by the band. Who knows, maybe this will inspire a Talking Heads return, which would be most welcome if they can harness the energy from the Club.

Tom Tom Club

I have to admit a certain amount of bias with regard to the Gang of Four. I consider them to be one of the greatest bands of all time, especially with regard to the influence they have passed on to the world of music. Their sparse and spiky rhythms gave permission for many bands to follow suit and sod the consequences for the melody. And now they’re back again after a few reformations over the past few years but down to only Jon King (vocals) and the mighty Andy Gill (guitar). Here they are augmented by David Bowie’s bassist, Gail Ann Dorsey and Mark Heaney on drums.

Gang of Four

From the off it is clear that they are well up for it. There's a visceral energy about the whole band and the opening 'At Home. He's a Tourist' implodes into the arena and leaves us in no doubt about the sonic attack of Andy’s guitar playing. In many ways he's like an anti-guitar hero, as he doesn't really do solo's or even that many chords yet the Gang make it work wondrously.

Jon King matches Andy's work rate with a series of dance moves that recall vultures, Bez from the Happy Mondays and an odd routine that looks like it was learnt by watching a monkey on a space hopper. If this man had to dance for his dinner he'd be well fed this evening and there would be no shortage of bananas either. Tonight, he doesn't slip up and keeps the energy level high and the intensity at boiling point. This is nicely demonstrated when he uses a baseball bat to destroy a microwave. I don’t think they’re fans of ready meals somehow.

New single 'Second Life' augers well for the rumoured comeback album and there’s some splendid versions of 'We Live as we Dream Alone', 'Not Great Men', 'Paralysed' and even 'I Parade Myself' from the lesser known 'Shrinkwrapped' album. It does sag a little in the middle section as this kind of intensity takes it's toll after a while but they pick it up for 'To Hell With Poverty' and the show finishes without any more damage to kitchen utensils.

Gang of Four

They encore with '5.45' and the previously banned (a long time ago) 'I Love a Man in a Uniform' and then all embrace and bow in appreciation of the crowd's reaction. However, they can't leave without performing their defining song. When 'Damaged Goods' starts up the audience clearly remember that it's not Radio 4 now but Radio 1, circa John Peel back in the late seventies. It's just a brilliant song basically and the line "sometimes I'm thinking that I love you but I know it's only lust" is one of stunning simplicity but with a poignancy that most human beings can sympathise with in that guilty way we do.

So the Gang of Four continue to send their message to fans, old and new. They clearly demonstrated that they are no fools whilst continuing to make music on their own terms. Long may they rule.
review by: Simon Soukal

photos by: Neil Greenway

Saturday 14th to Tuesday 24th June 2008
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX, England MAP
varies dependant on event from £12 to £30
last updated: Thu 12th Jun 2008


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