Live Reviews

The Ruts – Live

Islington Academy, London

Fact. The Ruts were the greatest band of the punk era. Judging by the endless parade of mainstream media punk documentaries that think that punk started with The Sex Pistols and ended with The Clash, however, this appears to be a little known fact. But it’s a fact all the same.

The Ruts were a magnificent musical force that was cruelly cut short by the death of their frontman Malcolm Owen in 1980. They left behind a wealth of classic songs that haven’t dated one single bit and continue to inspire each new generation that comes along (see Gallows and Lethal Bizzle).

Although the band continued for a short time after Owen’s death as Ruts DC, by the mid-eighties they went their separate ways but the cult continued to grow. The Ruts became the punk band that blossoming punks in the mid-eighties could only dream of seeing. I never thought I would ever get to see my favourite punk band live, but tonight, I finally did. I just wish the circumstances could have been better…

Paul Fox is one of the great punk guitarists. He’s fusion of blistering punk riffs, skanking reggae and ska never fails to hit the target. Sadly, Paul is a very, very ill man. Suffering from serious lung cancer, he is frail and unlikely to recover. Yet, having inspired so many along the way, his friends and musical peers put together tonight’s benefit concert to aid Paul and Cancer research, and just to say thank you for the riffs.

With punk rock guru John Robb hosting the show, events kicked off with short sets from Tenpole Tuder, TV Smith (The Adverts) and Splog, but it was when the UK Subs hit the stage that things really started to heat up. Frontman Charlie Harper may be in his sixties but nothing short of a skyscraper landing on his head will ever stop him from keeping the Subs going. Charlie Harper is in it for life. He keeps going because this is what he does. There’s no pension plan in punk rock. And tonight, the UK Subs fucking rock, carving out a short set of high-energy classics like ‘CID’, ‘Warhead‘ and ‘Emotional Blackmail‘.

‘Punk rock was a punky reggae party,’ reminds John Robb as Misty-In-Roots hit the stage next for some blissful reggae grooves. Misty toured relentlessly with The Ruts back in the day as the punks lapped up their rebel sounds. The Ruts first single ‘In A Rut‘ was released on Misty’s People Unite record label so their appearance here is mandatory and they make a nice break from the barrage of punk.

Fellow Ruts touring partners Tom Robinson and TV Smith take the stage next for some acoustic numbers, before The Damned hit the stage for a ferocious assault on our senses! Classic after classic came crashing from the stage – ‘Love Song’, ‘Neat Neat Neat’, ‘Smash It Up’ and a surprisingly punky run through their biggest hit single ‘Eloise’. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Well, actually, it does. The fucking Ruts. Not just The Ruts, however, but The Ruts with Henry Rollins on vocals. Yes. That’s right. You’re not dreaming. Old hank flew over to fill Malcolm Owen’s boots and did a damn good job of it. Having spent the evening up in the balcony rocking out to all the bands, Rollins was pumped up and ready to go as the original Ruts – Dave Ruffy (drums) and Vince Segs (bass) joined Paul Fox and Rollins onstage, tearing straight into ‘Something That I Said‘ as the whole place exploded. Rollins squatted down in his usual position, his voice perfectly suited to The Ruts songs. There was some worry that The Ruts very British sound wouldn’t suit Henry’s vocals, but it worked fine and sounded great.

The punk rock gems continued to flow as the band pumped out ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’, ‘Society’ alongside jaw-dropping versions of ‘Sus’, ‘West One (Shine On Me)‘ and of course, ‘Babylon’s Burning‘. Foxy, although looking visibly drained and horribly ill, poured every last bit of energy within his mind and body to make his last gig really count.

Ending with snarling run through ‘In A Rut‘ as the crowd screamed along to every word, the band left the stage for the last time as we screamed our throats raw for an encore but sadly, Foxy was spent. There was no energy left in him. With his lungs working at ten percent of their capacity, he’s only got one lung and the other is in pain, it’s amazing he was able to do the gig at all. But what a gig to go out on. You did us proud Foxy and thanks so much for the opportunity to finally see my favourite band live. This one’s for you.

James Sherry