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Live Review: Gang Of Four brings musical familiarity and different faces to the Paradise

 

Friday night hung in the air above me at work with deep anticipation. My coworkers harangued me for venturing into the edges of Allston alone, and in the cold — for what? For music? They seemed utterly confused. I told them Gang of Four were the mecca of all things post-punk, all things great, all things affable (in a post-modern kind of way). They didn’t get it. Would they ever? (Sorry, coworkers.)

So work came and was, eventually gone. I went home, cooked an impeccably seasoned chicken caesar salad (white anchovies included), drank a glass of red wine and made my pilgrimage. I listened to Gang of Four’s stream of hits on the T, blushing at the mere thought of their performance being just minutes away. Visions of “Natural’s Not In It,” from 1979’s seminal Entertainment LP, spiraled through my head, along with images of Kirsten Dunst layed sprawled in the bath tub of the opening credits of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette: so punk, so sexy, so perfect. Would ‘Four’s performance be just as glamorous, or did I have some kind of romanticized musing?

Maybe it was a little bit of both.

 

I made my way into the Paradise Rock Club eager and enthusiastic. The crowd, of mainly middle-aged, married men, let out on lease from their wives seemed just as antsy. I subtly inched towards the front, where a balding, grey-haired man serendipitously shoved me to front — he confided in me about seeing “The Gang,” for the first time at age 15. I felt touched by his excitement, and took a furious amounts of notes — until midway through the show he started touching me suggestively on the back: No thank you.

Finally the time arrived when Andy Gill, the lone remaining member from the Gang of Four classic lineup, took the stage. His new-ish bandmates appeared to be somewhere in their 20s. What an oddity. A sense of that old-school punk-ness felt lost in translation. But, let me tell you ladies: Singer John “Gaoler” Sterry is hum flawless… although his presence on stage wreaked somewhere along the lines of miserable and passé.

The sound however, was nonetheless stellar. Gill, in all his founding member and guitarist glory, shrewdly went between exuberant guitar riffs that rivaled post punk and disco, all the while taking sips from his glass of chardonnay. I knew that marinated chicken and vino would come back at some point through the night. As I stood there, rather awe-struck by Gill himself, we made eye contact, and I knew, in some strange form of telepathy wine was gushing through our wavelengths: I’m unworthy.

 
 

Gang Of Four were (are?) all about the riffs, so Gill’s presence trumped the notion that everyone else from nearly 40 years ago were missing. And as expected, the crowd of awkwardly-high-tucked jeans-with-stark-white-trainers (a symptom of the 50-year-old somethings) exploded when “Damaged Goods” came barricading from the amplifiers of Gill and dread-locked bassist Thomas McNiece. Other standout songs of the night included throwback snake-charmers “Anthrax” and “I Love A Man In Uniform,” and there was a healthy, but not offensive, dose of new record What Happens Next mixed into the set.

Draped in a blanket of sinister, green light Sterry banged away at his maracas, and I caught a glimpse, even if just for a second, some kind of chemistry. And I knew — maybe natural, really isn’t in it, but — across the generations music was something that aligned us all. Even if the bodies playing it have changed.