It’s been a while since Reverend and The Makers were having an impact on the music scene and a lot can change in a short space of time. Particularly when a large chunk of the acts success was down to a friendship with the Arctic Monkeys and the sort of soapbox political talk that can be very topical but can also age and date a band quite quickly. Topics such as employment and race relations will never go out of style or demand but they are topics that can age or define an act quickly so there were a lot of questions being placed in front of Reverend and The Makers before they came on stage.
One way to answer these questions is to launch into new material and current single ‘Silence Is Talking’ got the crowd going from the off, thanks mainly due to the liberal use of the horn riff from ‘Low Rider’ by War. Some folk will ask “war...what is it good for?” and then answer absolutely nothing but that really isn’t true. It can be good for creating a vacuum to overthrow the current regime, it can be really beneficial to economies, in particular those who have a large Arms expenditure, it can change public opinion about an elected government (as that arsehole Thatcher proved) and of course, War were also a fantastically funky band which showcased Eric Burdon to be a leader of men. The horn element really brought some life to the song and given that the Reverend (John McClure) has his vocals buried deep in the mix for the opening track, it was definitely the saving grace.
Next up was ‘The State of Things’, the scene setter from the bands first album and it highlighted that the band weren’t changing their approach this time around. Still wearing the donkey jacket associated with manual labour workers in the 1980s and a brand of vocal politics that would embarrass some Sixth Form kids, it can be easy to criticise McClure but his delivery gets him speaking to his people directly.
Make no mistake, the crowd had a strange mix to it and the neddish element was out in force, exemplified by the fact that there were people wearing football tops at the gig. On top of that, you can throw in the calling card of the Scottish bam, the “here we, here we, here we fucking go” chant and you have an evening out with a strange clientele. Still, the students mixed with the workers and non-workers and the young mixed with the old. McClure is definitely a man of the people but at times you can forgive him for looking out and using a line of his friends by thinking “who wants to be men of the people, when there’s people like you?” McClure can be annoying but he is a complex character, charming yet gormless, humble but prone to ludicrous comments of arrogance and self-belief but he always manages to end on the right side of likable.
The band unleashed a number of new tracks throughout the set but none had the immediacy of ‘Silence Is Talking’ and a proper listen to the album will need to be undertaken before any proper judgement can be made. The horn sections were used throughout and with a slightly Spanish feel to some songs, the influence of Arthur Lee and Love was sprinkled throughout the set. If you are going to be influenced by someone, you may as well be influenced by one of the best, so no complaints about that.
The stand out track from the first record, ‘Heavyweight Champion of The World’ was delivered in a slower and quieter manner here, which was a disappointment but songs like ‘Bandit’ and ‘He Said He Loved Me’ retained the same vigour and swagger which made them loved the first time around. It was a short evening and it wasn’t long before McClure was heading back out onto the streets to serenade his crowd like a wandering minstrel, roaming the land and dispensing truth and wisdom.
The world probably needs people like McClure to spread the word that there are options and you don’t have to settle for second best or what the Daily Mail tells you but equally, there has to be other options than this. That said, the good songs remain welcome and as already put forward, McClure is a likable and harmless frontman and hey, anyone who inspires a few chants of “Fuck The BNP” will always have something going for them.