As we climbed the seventeen flights of stairs to the sound-stage (okay, four flights), I was stuck wondering how big the hole left by the departure of original vocalist and founder, Jon King – who retired last year – would be. Jon King and Andy Gill have always been the driving force behind Gang of Four, and, more importantly, Jon King taught me everything I know about performing and/or dancing to rock music when I first saw them back at NYC’s The Ritz in November of 1981 as a 16-year-old. I’ve seen them at least thirty-five times or more since then, on each occasion, jumping, gyrating and sweating, while Jon King worked so hard he would run off to the side of the stage and vomit (I witnessed this at least three times). Gang of Four was simply the best live band there ever was, in my opinion. Finally the lights dimmed and the current drummer and bass player (fairly interchangeable parts for decades, and have included my good friend and former Attractions drummer, Steve Goulding, for a time, as well as journey-person bassist, Sara Lee) took the stage, quickly followed by Andy. Gill, it is interesting to note, seems not to age. I mean, he looks older, sure, but, hell, he looked older in 1981. Then the new singer, a teenager who resembles the love child of Terry Hall (The Specials) and Jordan Klepper (The Daily Show), entered the fracas. They played two new songs, which were not terrible. One was even good. But then they went in to “Paralyzed”, and muscle memory took over my body. That’s right. This fifty-year-old was a jumping, gyrating, sweaty mess (okay, maybe I jumped a little less high). This was followed by “Why, Theory”, “Damaged Goods”, and another new one, before finishing the 30-minute set (remember – it was a TV taping, not a full show) with “Poverty”. I glanced around the full house of 25-30 who made up the studio audience, and noticed that everyone my age had a huge smile on their face. Even the young hipsters seemed impressed (even if they are sadly unaware of the impact this music has had on most of their favorite bands). In the end, while I missed the crackle of Jon King’s anger, the iconic music and intensity of Andy Gill almost made up for it. Almost. Even if the new guy sounds more like Robert Smith than Jon King. When you watch the link below, it’ll be hard to miss me. I’m the bald guy wearing glasses who’s actually moving, whilst the rest of the audience, ever the hipster/posers that have ALWAYS made up Chicago crowds, look like wax figures.
Gang of Four perform “Damaged Goods” on JBTV Originally written on 3/13/2015