The Undertones and Stepford Wives at Boiler Shop, Newcastle 05/05/2022

Oldham’s Stepford Wives are rapidly increasing the number of people who’s radar they touch. A new record deal, a recent support slot with Manchester’s finest – Buzzcocks, and an appearance at HRH PunkFest later in the year means more people outside their home area are talking about them.

They’re proud of their Northern roots and, this being their first gig away from their home turf, make it clear they’re glad it’s still in the North. Stepford Wives play tight, rock n roll noise with a strong punk attitude and irresistible underlying melodies. It’s fast, full of energy, packed solid with superb guitar picking and soaring vocals from singer/guitarist Niklos. They’re absolute masters of lulling you into a manic, head shaking, feet moving rhythm before smashing you in the guts with a wall of battering drums and slashing guitars – just listen to I Can’t Fight and you’ll understand perfectly. They’re keen to get new songs out to people and tonight’s set is made up almost entirely of material you won’t find on Spotify/Bandcamp. Stepford Wives are moving on, not relying on past material even to please the small number amongst the sizeable crowd that might already have heard of them. And one thing is perfectly clear from their set tonight – Stepford Wives, whilst embracing the whole DIY ideology, are not your typical aggressive punk/post punk band.

They’re a mix of youth and middle age that doesn’t follow others like sheep and consequently deliver a sound uniquely theirs and one which will, quite rightly, have gained them new fans tonight.

The Undertones should have played this venue back at the end of March. Indeed on that night we witnessed a superb set of songs from ex-Strangler Hugh Cornwell who played support and it wasn’t until The Undertones were due to walk on stage that bassist Michael Bradley and singer Paul McLoone walked on with solemn faces to announce that drummer Billy Doherty had been taken seriously ill backstage and was about to leave in an ambulance. This rearranged gig sees Doherty’s return greeted with a huge cheer and applause from the sell-out crowd.

The unmistakeable guitar riff of Family Entertainment opens the set, grabs the crowd from the word go and it isn’t letting go. 40+ years since the release of their self-titled debut album songs such as Jimmy Jimmy, I Gotta Getta, Jump Boys, Here Comes The Summer and, of course, the immense sound of Teenage Kicks formed the backdrop to the youth of many present tonight, faultlessly putting to music that can only be described as perfect, power-guitar driven pop punk (regardless of whether or not you hate that lazy description, that’s exactly what it is) the agony, trauma and hormonal thoughts of those teenage years. And whether reliving those moments tonight or experiencing them for the first time – there’s plenty of youngsters here – Undertones songs are as relevant now as they’ve ever been.

Timeless. It’s a set of songs that spans their entire existence, including a decent number from the two albums released since the band’s reformation in 1999 with singer Paul McLoone. Two albums that have been condensed into the 2022 release Dig What You Need. Thrill Me has been a live favourite for many years but the welcome addition of songs such as I Need Your Love The Way It Used To Be, Enough, Here Comes The Rain and Dig Yourself Deep show that both in the studio and as a live act The Undertones have no need to rely solely on all the well known ‘classics’, delivered as they are with the unmistakeable interlinking of guitars from brothers Damien and John O’Neill, over the driving rhythms from Bradley and Doherty.

It seems that tonight, as always, The Undertones can do no wrong with not a single weak moment throughout their 90 minute set. The crowd love it, there’s frenzied dancing, arms in the air, singalongs. An obvious joy that’s reflected in the five musicians on stage. A band clearly loving every minute. McLoone, whose voice matches almost perfectly that of original vocalist Fergal Sharkey, leaps around the stage, kicking his feet out, eyeballing and acknowledging individuals, arms above his head as he claps out the beats. There’s moments when he’s so cracked up with laughter following a quip from Bradley that he can barely start a song, turning his back as he tries desperately to recompose himself before delivering vocals with a huge grin across his face. This is feel-good punk rock. Wednesday Week, Girls That Don’t Talk, When Saturday Comes, It’s Going To Happen, Hypnotised. So many stand out songs it’s impossible to even contemplate thoughts of “I wish they’d play….”. The more they play the more the crowd bounces and as the main set closes with a blistering run of polished jewels – Runaround, Girls Don’t Like It, Listening In and the huge Get Over You it’s hard to imagine what else they can do to complete the night in a better way.

But The Undertones don’t just do two songs for an encore. They return to play not just More Songs About Chocolate And Girls, a particularly powerful Male Model, Here Comes The Rain (from Dig What You Need), I Know A Girl and My Perfect Cousin by which point there’s a thousand people singing along. They say goodbye but don’t even leave the stage before deciding to add fan favourite Mars Bar and, just because they can, Teenage Kicks for the second time.
Faultless, powerful, timeless, pop driven punk. No-one does it better.

Photos and Words by Steve White 


Philip Goddard

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