Whilst the rest of the UK seems to be going batshit crazy, the Fleece really is the place to be tonight if you want to feel any degree of post-lockdown normality. There’s even one of those much hated 10pm curfews in place and arriving early for a pre-gig catch up with some old mates it’s almost like the last 18 months haven’t happened at all. Especially as the “sold out” flashes had been up on tonight’s gig posters long before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19. That’s right folks Cock Sparrer are finally back in Bristol for what was originally going to be their 2020 Not The Albert Hall Tour of smaller venues and boy does it feel good to be back inside a packed out and sweaty club. That’s not to say that the Fleece hasn’t had to make some changes to deal with the ever evolving post-lockdown situation though.
The most immediately obvious of these changes is perhaps the venue’s turbocharged air-con system, which is cranked up high enough to make the early evening air positively ice-box. So much so that Spunk Volcano has even ditched his trademark on stage action pants for tonight’s show. Then again, this is probably the least of the band’s concerns as having a guitarist walk out just prior to going out on tour and then having to quickly rework your set as a four piece (with the aforementioned Mr Volcano now also taking up second guitarist role as well as being singer) must have been a much more serious matter for them to deal with.
Not that you’d really notice the line-up change though, as the likes of ‘Death Or Glory’, ‘Cellotape’ and ‘Crossfire’ all blast out of the PA at maximum volume and velocity much to the joy of those eager enough to get in early doors. The Eruptions’ excellent lockdown released album ‘Barry Milner Is Thick’ gets an early look in too via the awesome ‘Only Got Eyes for You, and I can’t help thinking the misfits might never have sounded better.
Whether its cruising in his ‘XR3’ or standing on ‘Platform 3’ the ability of Spunk Volcano to turn everyday situations into memorable rock anthems is what really draws people in, and be it a metal or punk audience the band are playing to if you can’t relate to the likes of ‘I Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ then you’ve obviously led a very sheltered life indeed. By almost direct contrast though tonight’s closing track ‘DNA Failure’ stubs a finger in the chest of the crazy world outside the Fleece and screams “fuck you” in its face, seemingly much to the delight of everyone around me.
It’s all over way too quickly, but with an eleven date tour booked for early 2022, if the Eruptions can just slot in a Welsh/Bristol date into their already busy itinerary that would make the ideal early Spunkmas pressie for yours truly and many others here tonight.
Cock Sparrer will also be looking forward to a busy 2022 as they look to celebrate their 50th anniversary, with their recently announced one off “two set” show at London’s Roundhouse close to selling out at the time of writing. It’s their 49th anniversary we’re all finally celebrating tonight though, and as the ‘Overture’ intro segues seamlessly into ‘Riot Squad’ and the inevitable mosh pit follows swiftly kicking any social distancing well into touch, for the next 90 minutes at least we are back to the “old normal”, something I openly admit I’d had my own reservations about. However, once we’re into ‘Watch Your Back’ and the frenzied boogie of ‘Working’ it is impossible not to be a part of it all.
Throwing in a few setlist curveballs is always something Sparrer enjoy doing, largely to keep it fresh for everyone, and tonight we get a searing ‘Sussed’ from the ‘Here We Stand’ album to put everyone’s memories to the test. Meanwhile, three tracks from their 2017 released ‘Forever’ album sees ‘One By One’ emerging to stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of ‘Argy Bargy’ and ‘Take Em All’ as a real fan favourite. For yours truly I’ll never tire of hearing the likes of ‘AU’ and ‘Tough Guys’ or in fact (Colin McFaull’s very own favourite Sparrer song) ‘Because You’re Young’. These songs all proving without a doubt that the band has always been more than just their seminal ‘Shock Troops’ record in the songwriting department. Although granted it’s the likes of ‘Take ‘Em All’ and ‘Where Are They Now? that really get the Doc Martins moving on the dancefloor and the previously mentioned ice-cold air con is seriously struggling to keep up by the time the band has ripped through the three song encore of ‘Suicide Girls’, ‘England Belongs To Me’ and We’re Coming Back’.
Along with a grin stretching from ear to ear the overriding thought I’m left with leaving the Fleece tonight is the songs that Sparrer didn’t play. You know the ones that you hear people around you shouting for at all Sparrer gigs, songs like ‘Sunday Stripper’, ‘Chip On My Shoulder’ ‘Bird Trouble’ and ‘Bats Out’ (granted that one was me), songs that would make the “two set” Roundhouse show seem even more essential than your usual Sparrer gig. There’s only a year to wait to find out if they will get played again folks, and trust me that time will fly by.
Hit the ticket link below to make sure you don’t miss out on this once in a band’s lifetime event. You can thank me later.
Author: Johnny Hayward