Steve Ignorant in Toronto – A Review

April 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm (Uncategorized)

 

Steve at the Opera House

It seemed only appropriate, given the nature of Crass that Steve Ignorant’s Last Supper was performed in Toronto on Good Friday. The anarchist punk band that still casts such a long shadow.

The first ever Crass song I heard was Mother Earth, a song from the Stations of the Crass record, part of a John Peel session included on the new re-issue of Stations.   I won’t say it changed my life, I was already into punk, but it did lead me further down a path of exploration and questioning. I didn’t always agree with Crass, but like them or not, they made you think.

Perhaps that was what was so intriguing about the band: Their apparent contradictions. The band delivered a stripped down punk that apparently lacked much of the sophistication of their peers. However, if you listened closely, the music was  not so simple. Particularly something like “Walls” on Stations, Crass showed they also possessed sophistication. But it wasn’t just the sound; Crass delivered complicated ideas on topics like racism, sexism, peace, religion, anarchy ands much more. The packaging of their records was always detailed and thought provoking.  

And no less than others, Crass constantly challenged themselves. After the success of Stations, they released Penis Envy which didn’t feature Steve, only Eve and Joy singing. If you’re serious about fighting sexism, they seemed to say, then put your money where your mouth is.

So when it all came to an end in 1984, many people thought that was that. Crass was the product of a set of particular circumstances never to be duplicated.

Except that it wasn’t over.  The records continued to sell, the famous Crass symbol is still well known. The legend continued to grow. Then in 2007, Steve Ignorant, who had continued to work in music, performed The Feeding of the 5000 at a show in London. In 2010, a tour was announced, The Last Supper.

It was not without controversy. Some of the members of the band felt that Steve shouldn’t be perfroming those songs again. And when plans were announced for re-issues for Crass’ albums, some within the Crass camp felt this too was wrong (although it should be noted most of those songs are availabe on I-Tunes anyway -why not do something for the fans?).

Apparently much of the exchanges are availabe on-line -you’ll have to look for yourself, I haven’t bothered to find them. 

In March of this year, the tour was supposed to hit North America, but visa problems meant the shows were postponed for a month. (It worked for me, as I was in New york the weekend of the original show). Steve has vowed that when this tour ends in November, he will never play these songs live again. So, last night’s show was historic.

A couple of hours before the show, Steve appeared at Hits and Misses, a record store on Queen Street West. Probably sixty people crammed into the little shop to hear Steve talk about Crass, and his autobiography The Rest is Propaganda (a line uttered by Albert Finney in the film Friday Night, Saturday Morning).

Among the questioners, one Crass fan questioned Steve’s decision to play the tour at “corporate venues” like the Opera House suggesting that this was something Crass would never have done: They would have done it DIY.  Purity however is a often a luxury of the unimportant, and while I sympathize with that sentiment (I’ve often been involved with groups and movements labelled sectarian), the point is that this isn’t Crass. And no one pretends it is. It’s a member of Crass playing songs he wrote or contributed to, one last time.  

The show at the Opera House started around 9:00 with Terminals, a three piece punk band who played a thirty minute set of fairly unremarkable punk: Choppy drumming, fast riffs and shouted vocals.

Perhaps the most memorable thing for me from their set was the appearance of slam dancers. Off topic somewhat, but I’ve never been fond of this fixture of many punk shows. I can’t help but feel that many of those involved in slam dancing got the idea from watching the punk episode of Quincy. (Actually, few of the slammers were born when that episode aired). Still, it seems to play into a kind of violent macho aesthetic which excludes women (at least those who don’t enjoy being bashed into or groped), and quickly leads to frayed tempers – two participants were on the verge of fighting almost as soon as the thing began. One of the last comments from the Terminals singer was to ask the crowd to stop fighting.  

Class Assassins from Toronto were up next. To my ears they were a big step forward. Class Assassins are a five-piece and have a big punk sound which fit more in with Bad Religion or Social Distortion than a strictly hardcore sound.

The band have a couple of CDs out, and were a lot of fun.

After their thirty minute set , I was expecting Goldblade, but they didn’t appear. Not sure why. I was a bit disappointed since they are a fine act, but my evning was already going so well, it was OK.

Last Supper

Steve Ignorant took the stage at 11:00. I never saw Crass, but I imagine that this show was a little bit like being there. The ferocious music was key, but behind the band was a series of slides of political figures (Thatcher appeared often) and others not too known in North America  (Moors Murderer Myra Hyndley was shown throughout Mother Earth), along  with anti-nuclear pictures, peace pictures and lots of shots of Crass and assorted punks. In addition, tapes played between songs, so creating a multi-media experience.

Steve Williams is 53 years old. The spikey hair is long gone, and as he admitted earlier in the evening, the voice is a bit gravelly, but he was clearly enjoying himself. as were the crowd. We sang along, we chanted, we cheered. All the hits and more.

The only down note for me, aside from the continued presence of stage divers and slam dancers, was the sound. The Opera House has never had the best soundsystem, and last night much of Steve’s vocals were lost in the mix. While it’s true we knew all the words, they were important and deserved to be heard. Ironically though, the vocals were much clearer on Eve Libertine’s songs as perfromed by Carol Hodge, and these were among my favourites of the evening (ironic because I usually prefered the ones Steve sang on record).

Carol Hodge

So, almost thirty years after I moved to Canada and almost thirty years since Crass broke up, I got to see those songs played live. I bought a copy of Steve’s book and got it signed (in a fanboyish moment, I got my picture taken with Steve too), and had a great time at a gig I never thought I’d see. Not a bad evening.

Set list ( which may not be 100% accurate)

Punk is Dead
Do they owe us a living?
End Result
They’ve Got a Bomb
Big Man Big M.A.N.
Mother Earth
White Punks on Hope
Bata Motel
Systematic Death
Time Out
Securicor
How does it feel to be the mother of a thousand dead?
Fight War Not Wars
Where Next Colombus?
Rival Tribal Rebels Revel
G’s Song
I ain’t thick, It’s Just a Trick
The Gasman Cometh
Heard Too Much About
Darling
Berketex Bride
Chairman of the Bored
Tired
Big A Little A
So What
Banned from the Roxy

Encore

[ Couldn’t read my handwriting ]
You’ve Got Big Hands
Shaved Women
Bloody Revolutions

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5 Comments

  1. Paul said,

    Hey:

    Sounds like fun, but where’s the pic of you and Steve?

    Paul

    • fischerzed said,

      Oh you know me – I’m too shy and retiring to publish my own pictures 🙂

  2. Chris Barry said,

    I hate punk shows that don’t have slam dancing. You folks who want to stand there against the wall doing your fav Andy Warhol impression should wait out the next Death Cab for Cutie show or whatever emo piece of shit you are into this week and leave punk to those who actually like it.

    I really preferred the old days when you could go to a punk show and there were only like 2 women in the entire crowd. Now it’s like fucking Lillith Fair and everyone wants to be able to ‘enjoy’ the show as if they’re watching fucking Yanni or John Tesh or whomever they should actually be into. FUCK OFF AND GET YOUR ESTROGENY HANDS OFF MY PUNK ROCK!!!

    • fischerzed said,

      Initially, I wondered if the above was a gag.

      There’s probably not much point arguing about the mysogyny, the macho attiutudes (criticized in my original post) and the outright errors (Death Cab for Cutie an emo band?) in the response to my review – we obviously have a completely different world view (although I’m happy to agree with Ian MacKaye on this issue)

      Still I do wonder about a couple of things.

      1. When in the good old days were punk shows were exclusively male? One of the great things about punk from its inception was (is) its inclusionism.

      2. Isn’t this seriously out of place at a Steve Ignorant show? Crass were very serious about this inclusionism and their lyrics often addressed these attitudes. I’m guessing Penis Envy isn’t the favourite Crass album.

      Maybe it is a gag after all.

  3. Social Media Run Wild | Notes from Underground said,

    […] The only hostile posts have been about music reviews I’ve written, one about Wilco, another Steve Ignorant.  Both were seemingly written in rage-fueled haste and laden with childish profanities and insults. […]

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