February 21, 2011 | 9:08am
Gang of Four
Feb. 20, 2011
House of Blues, Anaheim
Gang of Four's Entertainment! is one of the most important records in my life, and I'd sell my soul to have seen them in 1980. Seeing Gang of Four in 2011 at the House of Blues is kind of like seeing them in a sports bar. Weird and a little awkward. I think I saw 30 Seconds to Mars ads on at least 10 TVs before Gang of Four's set tonight, with a few cheesy "Have Blues Will Travel" ads thrown in. I miss the Gang of Four that had Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham, and Jon King was smoking-hot in the Entertainment!-era. That said, the show was pretty fun, even though no microwaves were bashed with baseball bats onstage.
As expected, the legendary post-punk band played a lot of material from Content
--their new record, the first with new songs in more than 15 years--but they did play a lot off Entertainment!
too. If you're a super-fan (and you've got to be to endure the hell that is Downtown Disney), you'd have Googled their recent setlists and found them to be pretty much the same from show to show on this tour. Seeing "Damaged Goods" and "Ether" on there consistently was a huge relief. Expected to hear "At Home He's a Tourist," but no such luck. Still, I was grateful that they mixed in classics with the new songs, rather than just giving us the new album straight through.
Original members Jon King and Andy Gill were joined onstage by Thomas McNeice on bass and Mark Heaney on drums. They were fine, but it was all about the King-Gill stage dynamic. My only real sound complaint was that it was way too bass-heavy.
Every song was a dance party for King, who kept changing mics throughout the set as he danced up and down the stage in various animalistic states. After all these years, that man is still incredibly fit. During "Ether," King was at his most primal, reverting to his natural animal form and crawling across the stage. He picked up his mic and threw it at the ground because it was time for some handclaps, no time to waste putting it on its stand. During "Anthrax," he waved his arms in the air, pretending to be a beetle on his back.
King's frequent dance outbursts were paired with Gill's piercing stare that screamed, "I dare you to dance." His face was stuck in a scowl for the entire show. Each song ended in him striking a pose, his guitar pointing into the crowd, with a stone-cold look that was so serious you couldn't help but laugh. At the end of "Anthrax," he beat his guitar into the floor, picked it up again and threw back into the ground at the side of the stage. He walked away before returning to the mic for the end of the song, as a tech made sure he didn't kill his guitar midset. At the last note, Gill turned his back to the audience and reached for his wine glass that had been resting on his amp since the show started, and the lights went dark. Very smooth.
King left the stage for "Paralyzed" but returned to rip into "A Fruitfly In the Beehive," which got a shocked "Woah, heavy!" from the guy standing in front of me. The dancing continued, and he got so close to throwing his arms back a little too fast and a little too close to smacking Gill in the face. "WWW" and "To Hell With Poverty" brought out intense audience stomping and irritating flashing stadium bright lights.
No one said anything during the entire show, up until the very end, when King closed out with telling the audience, "Wonderful being in California."
Throughout the entire set, I was thinking, "If Jon King doesn't bring out a microwave and a baseball bat to smash it, I'm gonna be terribly disappointed." He told me he would on this tour when I interviewed him
, but he didn't, and I was disappointed. Maybe at the LA show tonight . . .
The Crowd: Ranged from really young kids who probably just discovered Gang of Four to old punks who've probably followed the band for decades.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Did you go to FYF Fest? Man, that sucked. No bathrooms! Shitty food! What is that about?!"
Random Notebook Dump: I really wish I had a video camera to record Jon King's sweet dance moves.
"You'll Never Pay for the Farm"
"Not Great Men"
"I Parade Myself"
"A Fruitfly In the Beehive"
"We Live As We Dream, Alone"
"To Hell With Poverty"
"Do As I Say"
"I Love a Man In a Uniform"
"Return the Gift"
"Natural's Not In It"
"I Party All the Time"