Over the years I have witnessed dozen and dozens of performances with almost as many lineups but I think its safe to say that the current line up is right up there with the best ever if not the hands-down top of the pile although I appreciate that is open to debate. Stephen Straughan has been in the band for several years now and to put it one way – is part of the furniture and adds the required bite to proceedings which the current Subs line up deserves. Alvin and Jamie are without a doubt the driving force and an incredible powerhouse rhythm section that is up there with the best anywhere. As for Charlie. what can you say about the guy? An incredibly likable frontman with an insatiable lust for life and one whose talent shows no sign of abating.
Of all the times I’ve seen the band I think this was my first foray into Bristol but I wouldn’t swear by that and with a healthy crowd inside the exchange on a school night the Subs casually saunter onto the stage and proceed to knock out a fantastic set with the required amount of mainstays and some very welcome additions to the ever-evolving set list. Let’s be fair they have a bazillion songs to choose from yet always seem to throw up a new gem or two every tour. This one is no exception.
They could easily get away with playing for seventy-five minutes and do the best of but they keep writing new material that is as strong if not stronger than their impressive back catalogue. Tonight begins with the likes of ‘Fragile’ followed by ‘Quintessentials’ ‘Mouth on A Stick’ then to follow that up with ‘Ladt Esquire’ from the first album was some excellent choices. It then became apparent that this decent-sized audience that some down the front wanted to hold up their blessed camera phones which rightfully got Charlie’s goat a little, to say the least. Sure take a few pics I do but that takes a few seconds then it’s gone but I’m also baffled as to why somebody would go to see a show and spent the entire evening watching it through a phone screen! When did that even become a thing? Charlie became more and more perturbed by the actions of a few but he wasn’t the only one.
Anyway, the songs came hard and fast and the heat was raised by the time we hit a purple patch of classic Subs tunes and one to add to the list has to be ‘City Of The Dead’. Not that the crowd needed warming up but to follow that with ‘I’ve Got A Gun’, ‘Emotional Blackmail’ and ‘Another Cuba’ was exceptional. I’m sure there are many who would say that their favourite album is ‘Endangered Species’ I flip-flop from one week to the next putting this at the top of the pile so it was great to hear ‘Fear Of Girls’ but when they chime up with ‘Bitter & Twisted’ I’m loving ‘Quintessential’ but enough of that their cover version of ‘Here Comes Alex’ sounds as bright as the first time I heard it.
We head into the home straight and from here on in its a sing-along classic fest. ‘Teenage’, ‘Party In Paris’ they all lead to that classic bass line and ‘Warhead’ signals the crowd participation as some people lose their collective shit. It is great that these songs we’ve possibly heard too many times still hit the spot and tonight ‘Warhead’ sounds as fresh as it ever has and as relevant as it ever has. I guess our leaders have learned nothing over the decades.
For an encore tonight we’re treated to the trio of UK Subs classics in the shape of ‘C.I.D’, ‘I Live In A Car’ and to send us into the cold Bristol night its the ‘New York State Police’ and then we’re gone. Another night in another town with the same familiar songs sounding as fresh as the day they were written watching a band killing it time after time and night after night already I’m checking my diary to see when I can catch them next and Cardiff Tramshed in 2019 it is. Phenomenal band phenomenal back catalogue and still giving, new EP and then there is Alvin’s solo album to look forward to – bring it on – the more the merrier.
Author :Dom Daley