Buzzcocks, “Back To Front” Manchester Apollo, 25th May 2012

A bright sunny May day (for a change) in Manchester as we made our way beyond the centre of the city and through a housing estate into the Apollo. As is standard for a Manchester gig John Robb is holding court in the foyer, a quick hello and we’re into the main hall.

Section 1 – The “Current” lineup

This Buzzcocks gig was an interesting one and my only chance of seeing the original lineup. The “Back To Front” gig comprises of 3 sections . First off we have the current lineup Messrs Shelley, Diggle, Farrant, Remington. If memory serves we were somewhere between the ruddy excellent “Flat Pack Philosophy” and the soon to be released “The Way” so we get a fair slab of Flat Pack (Sell You Everything, Wish I’d Never Loved You) plus choice cuts from “Buzzcocks” album which again is a great album and sits well in their fantastic back catalogue. The band’s first album since they reformed “Test Trade Transmission” (is there a duff track on it?) gets an airing in the form of Isolation, Crystal Night and the single Innocent. Still sounding both live, and indeed on record, as fresh as ever whilst retaining that classic Buzzcocks shimmer.

I notice at this point that Mr Diggle is suitably refreshed this evening. I don’t recall whether he had a champagne bottle on his amp for this one (which he did for a Leeds gig) but he certainly had refreshments on the go somewhere. Fair play.

Section 2 – The “Classic” lineup

Let’s be honest this was probably going to be the highlight of the evening.  Shelley, Diggle, Maher and Garvey together again. Somehow at my age I’d managed to see the original lineup and it was great. All the classics there Fast Cars, Why Can’t I Touch It, Why She’s The GIrl From The Chainstore, You Say You Don’t Love Me and the rest. Just amazing. The live performance is tight and it’s like the four of them never stopped playing live together. Unreal.

Section 3 – The “Original” lineup

We’re now joined by Mr Devoto. He was “active” shall we say at this point as I’d already been lucky enough to see a few recently reformed Magazine gigs and here he is tonight with Buzzcocks. As entertaining as it gets. Devoto working the crowd with all the eccentricity and showmanship that we expect. Obviously, the set here comprises of Spiral Scratch so we’re handed Times Up, Boredom, Breakdown, Friends Of Mine and an encore comprising of I Can’t Control Myself. There’s a slight false start faux pas where Howard sings another lyric in a different song but it’s a glorious chaos and we’re left wondering if we’ll ever see the likes of this again.  Well London did the next night but that was it.  Yer Times Up! and so sadly is Pete Shelley’s. RIP Pete and thank you for the music, the gigs and the soundtrack to life.

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