It’s never over til it’s over but as far as full tours are concerned, Charlie Harper is calling it a day. The legendary singer brings the UK Subs to Scotland to say farewell.
There’s a very good reason the UK Subs are selling out venues up and down the country on this final full UK tour, their enduring popularity. It can be argued that Charlie Harper is a major consideration, but the UK Subs have been a main stay of the punk genre for as long as it has been prevalent. The band has seen many line up changes throughout their long history, but their current members are perhaps the nicest bunch of people on the planet. Apart from Charlie, Alvin, Stephen and Stefan endear themselves to anyone they ever meet. The crowd have come from far and wide to pack out La Belle Angel in the capital and many of them have already had a beer with the band as they took in the sights of “Auld Reekie” prior to showtime.
Dundee punk powerhouse The Eddies are no strangers to the UK Subs. Having shared a stage with them many times across the UK, it’s a fitting send off that they were invited to join the band as they celebrate their 45+ years playing live. Similar to the Subs, The Eddies have also had a number of line up changes through the years. New addition “Big Baz” on drums, was introduced to the busy room by frontman Lee Guthrie. It’s Barrys third full gig after supporting GBH on his very first outing then Il Complesso. The hard hitting drummers’ actions speak volumes in the first song, “Control.” Lee’s bleak dystopian world is a stark indicator of the way the world is going. The rousing “My Game My Rules” brought a huge cheer from the busy crowd as The Eddies ripped through their short set.
“Excess” maintained the intensity with the blistering twin guitars of Steve and Ed. It was the crushing bass of Ian that kicked off “Problem” which peaked the bands performance and the crowd’s reaction before Lee’s snarling voice maximised its menace during “Liar.” The set ended with the effervescent “Takin the Mick,” a song inspired by the bands inspirational guitarist Mick Kilbride who sadly passed away over 5 years ago but lives on through the title track of their last E.P. The band made the most of their slot and judging by the cheers, thoroughly endeared themselves to the sold out venue.
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The vibe in the room heightened as showtime arrived and the “Party in Paris” intro started. “Scum of the Earth” kicked off the set and the band were fully engaged right from the off. It’s no surprise that the bulk of their songs would come from the seminal “Another Kind of Blues” but they would disperse them throughout the set. The mission statement “Born a Rocker, Die a Rocker” came early as Charlie prophetically sung the iconic words that probably best describes him. The crowd were in full voice and they screamed “NY State Police” in unison to the aging rocker as he loomed over them with the microphone. The sure-fire drumming of latest arrival to the band, Stefan Haublein was evident during “Emotional Blackmail.” He has breathed new fire into the belly of the band. The last time I saw the UK Subs was at Rebellion where they played to another packed crowd of 4,000+ in the Empress Ballroom but they transcend any size of venue as the accessibility of the songs and their individuality as musicians get right to the core of their audience. The beaming smile of Charlie is infectious as the band run down their set. The mid set highlight for me was “Fragile,” Alvin’s endless delirious bass runs were complimented by Stephens glorious guitar work on his immaculate Gibson Les Paul Custom. The crowd were well up for it by the time “Limo Life” blasted out the PA as Charlie prophetically shouted, “All I need is a little bit of action.” The recognisable belting bass line intro, made famous by LA rockers Guns N Roses, signified the run in to the end of the first set as the hits started to appear. “Down on the Farm” preceded a bouncing version of “Tomorrows Girls.” The edgy chopped guitar was the signature sound of the subs in those early singles which were modest chart hits. No mistaking what the next track was though as Alvin pumped out the bassline to “Warhead.” The crowd did its best to take the roof off as they shouted along with Charlie at the chorus, and it continued into “Riot.” The penultimate song of the opening set was a regular favourite “Stranglehold.” I think most of the crowd will have had a 7” red vinyl copy of the single at some point in their lives. “Disease” closed out the set and gave the band a brief opportunity to take a breath and another beer break, of which they had many during the opening salvo.
The UK Subs never disappoint when it comes to giving the crowd what they want. “CID” and “I Live In a Car” were evidence of this as they played the songs to rapturous applause. Charlie took a moment to retrieve his famous “moothie” much to the amusement of the locals (no need for translation in Scotland!). The harmonica driven classic “I Couldn’t Be You”, from that famous first album demonstrated Harpers talents. The party was nearing its conclusion with “Party in Paris” as the band took their leave for a second time but not for long. There was just enough time for a swig of whisky and they were back to round off the night with a final encore. “Teenage” from the ““Brand New Age” album was the bands final fling as the venue’s curfew kicked in. It might have been a prophetic song to end on as the aging crowd hung on to their youth by reliving their past. The band played a great assortment of timeless classics and it doesn’t seem Charlie ever ages. Long live the King, the King of Punk!
The UK Subs will round off the Final UK Tour with a run of sold out nights at London’s 100 Club.
But, watch out for more live dates as the band will continue to play the festival circuit.
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