A journey back in time, then … Carter USM‘s reunion/final gig at Brixton Academy: I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. There was something gorgeously nostalgic for me about going in via the guest list door down the side of the Academy (these days I don’t generally do guest lists at gigs – in my days as a music journalist, it’s all I did!) – and then, of course, bumping into various figures from the old Carter days: Jim’s girlfriend Jakki, Daz the super-roadie, Adrian their old manager (I can’t believe Steve Lamacq wasn’t there, but I didn’t see him before, during or afterwards). Carter long- and short-sleeved tops abounded, but were they originals, or new ones? It didn’t matter. Old Carter fans had filled out a bit, and most presumably now had babysitters to thank for this rare Saturday night out. We were talking about a sold-out Brixton (always Carter’s local venue) full of fortysomethings, and perhaps a few thirtysomethings, re-living those glory years of the early 90s – perhaps some of the younger ones were kids of Carter fans? No apologies for this bit of moderate time-travel (ten years since Carter split, 20 since they formed – both decisions made on Streatham Common – and around 25 since they bestrode the world, or part of it, as two) – Jim and Fruitbat had made the wise decision that those earlier days of conquest were the ones to be celebrated: no Wez the drummer (nice fella though he was), no other unecessary band-members, and no songs from the later albums (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Glam Rock Cops, 1994, was the most recent song played).
Thanks to Eddie Curry from the Carter USM boards, even though I didn’t ask him, for the borrow of these hot-off-the-camera photos, and to Mark Reed for getting the set-list up so quickly:
Every Time A Church Bell Rings
My Second To Last Will And Testament
Say It With Flowers
Billy’s Smart Circus
Taking Of Peckham 1-2-3
Do Re Me
This Is How It Feels
Anytime Anyplace Anywhere
The Only Living Boy In New Cross
Prince In A Pauper’s Grave
After The Watershed
Glam Rock Cops
Lean On Me
The Impossible Dream
Bloodsport For All
The Music Nobody Likes
A Perfect Day To Drop The Bomb
A Sheltered Life
Sorry about this, but yes, Fat Jon Beast came on to introduce the boys in time-honoured fashion.
I’ve seen him do this from London to New York in the past, and it was only fitting that he did it again tonight, dressed only in a gourd, and just as portly as he always was. (Lovely to see him and give him a big hug after the show – he was fully dressed by then.) If you never saw Carter, or had them down as indie chancers, I won’t try to convert you now – it’s somewhat late in the day – but for two blokes, two guitars and a backing tape, they once again made a fantastic noise. Yes, it’s effectively DIY punk rock, but constantly melodic, with synth flourishes and social realism, plus Jim’s crossword-clue lyrics, most of which came with massed accompaniment on Friday. It was brave to have some of the promos showing on a screen, as we could compare the faces of Jim and Les with their younger selves (they looked particularly lean and hungry in Rubbish). Because of his choice of flat cap, Fruitbat looked very much like an athletic granddad, but in an act of high camp he returned for the encores in his old costume of shorts, t-shirt and cycling cap – at which point he downed his first alcoholic drink for seven months, and commented, “That was nice.” Jim looked stylish indeed in black shirt with red braces and red armbands.
The aftershow was well-attended in the upstairs bar, where, swiz, the beer cost three pound thirty a bottle. Thanks to current manager Marc I was escorted back to the dressing room (mainly because I couldn’t hang around long), where I expressed my appreciation of a great and emotional night to Jim with a further manly hug. It was a hugging sort of night. Grown men crying. That sort of thing.
I never felt the need to see the reformed Sex Pistols (if you didn’t seem them with Sid, it wasn’t the Sex Pistols), nor the Pixies (whom I saw the first time around). I witnessed Bauhaus at Brixton the other year, and that was a fabulous night of theatre, and I’m glad I experienced the reformed Pop Will Eat Itself too – a similar vintage crowd to Carter’s, and another good night for babysitters. So I have nothing against bands reforming in essence. If the audience is there, where’s the harm? As long as they don’t play new songs. Heaven forbid.
Nice to feel like a 26-year-old fan again. And this exchange took place in the bar beforehand which has nothing to do with Carter but made me smile:
Irish bloke [to me]: You’re Stuart Maconie!
Me: No, I’m not.
Irish bloke: Yes you are!
Me: No, I’m not, I promise you.
Irish bloke: You sound like him.
Me: I’m not him. [I’m kind of teasing him at this point, hoping he will realise his error without me having to tell him who I am]
Irish bloke: My wife is a big fan of your books.
Me: That’s great. But do you mean she’s a big fan of my books, or a big fan of Stuart Maconie’s books?
Irish bloke: No, definitely yours. Can I take a picture?
Me: Of course you can. [I still have no idea if he thinks I am me or Stuart at this stage, but I figure his wife can work it out later]
[He holds camera phone out and we put our heads together for a snap. Click. The flash doesn’t go off]
Irish bloke: Oh well. Cheers anyway!
[We shake hands and he goes off, merrily]