The Engine Rooms, Southampton

Sham 69

It’s Saturday night in Southampton, on the night the clocks go back. It’s also the night when one of Punk’s elder statesmen are in town. Leading lights of the second wave Sham 69 have returned after a successful gig here last summer. There are no train strikes this evening so one expects a sizeable audience, and the rain has stopped so no excuses!! All the way from along the coast come Poole’s finest The Mistakes, who are steadily building an ever-growing fan base both here and abroad. With an album’s worth of material to pick from they are afforded a generous timescale being the only support on the night.

Ross (vox) enthusiastically leads us through their intro track before the band explodes into life with ‘”The Underdogs”. His delivery is full of rage and bile – this might be one of the biggest stages they play for a while and they are not playing it half-arsed. With a large area to move around in Ross patrols the stage from side to side, bellowing out the lyrics. Watching him in action one can make parallels between Jeff Turner and Jimmy Pursey, another rabble-rouser from the new breed. “Brainstorm” is an early highlight that sees Shane (guitar/vox) project himself as chief shapeshifter early on. He is grinning like the proverbial feline and looks like he’s loving every minute. There’s between-song banter and piss-take aplenty this evening – one could be forgiven for thinking they’re not taking it seriously, such is their in-band camaraderie. But it’s all part of the act. They start to really enjoy themselves during ‘Together’. The slow build-up and the fast mid-section make this a crowd favourite and winner live. ‘MDMA’ is as powerful as ever, Lewis (drums) tucked away at the back is no less powerful than his last live outing. On ‘That’s What You Get’ things appear to go a little Pete Tong – a false start and then a confused band all playing and singing different parts.

If you’re new to the band then they probably got away with it; however, what show is ever perfect?! The first singalong comes during the now live staple ‘Never Be Quiet’, which is delivered at breakneck speed. ‘Walk Tall’ seems somewhat slow by comparison but sees James’s (lead) guitar intricacies and pulling shapes to match. Richie (bass) is no less important either, playing his parts. ‘Quitters Get Nothing’ precedes a track added to the set list by popular punter demand, simply entitled ‘Dead’. It must be one from the archive as it’s raw as hell. They take the plaudits from this generous audience and depart us on ‘Self Control’. Ross does the merchandise thing and they leave to great applause. One cannot fail to like The Mistakes who could be at home in any Punk/Oi/Streetpunk line-up. And on tonight’s showing that hasn’t changed.

The Mistakes
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After a forty-minute break the lights go down and Hersham’s finest take to the stage. First Robin Guy (drums), then Parsons (guitar) and Treganna (bass) respectively, then a few seconds later Pursey (vox) strides onstage. No messing around, straight into opener “What Have We Got”. It’s as relevant today as the day it was written and this South Coast crowd respond accordingly. “Tear Gas Eyes” is new to me but sounds fresh. Jimmy (Pursey) is in fine voice and good humour. This is gonna be a show to remember. First single “I Don’t Wanna” continues the singalongs but “Ulster Boy” has the whole room singing. Jimmy leads us into the choruses with that now-familiar pose, arms out wide encouraging the singalongs. Continuing the anthems comes “Rip Off”, sung acapella, by Jimmy at first before exploding into life. Jimmy declares “we are all Mexican” before launching into “No Entry”. There’s plenty of movement in the crowd and the room goes wild for “Borstal Breakout”.

“That’s Life” is great while “Give A Dog A Bone” gets a rare outing tonight. “Money” allows this energetic bunch some much-needed breathing space – there really is nothing quite like a “middle-aged mosh pit”. Jimmy again strips “Questions And Answers” down to its barest form, before the band join in full electric. Jimmy then proclaims “that Joe Strummer, he knew what was going on” before a rampant cover of “White Riot”; replete with verse alterations. They end the main set with a crowd-pleasing “If The Kids Are united”, which sees the whole room singing in a-wonderful unison.

Sham 69
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A short break sees them return with three bangers. Staying with the humour Jimmy says “looking around this crowd there are a few angels, but plenty of dirty faces”! The carnage down the front returns! Jimmy then explains “you know they never quite got us in London, but we’re Punk Rockers from the country”. “Hersham Boys” is tonight’s set highlight which once again has this whole room in fine voice. But Jimmy saves his best line ’til last; “this one’s for you lot, cos after last night you need a drink” (alluding to Southampton’s crushing 0.9 defeat to Leicester). Those of us from the surrounding Counties enjoy a wry smile as they triumphantly depart us on “Hurry Up Harry”.

And that folks was their last gig of 2019. Be in no doubt they put it all out there – anyone in any doubt about this band’s longevity, forget it – Sham69 live is better than ever and back to their very best. A great night had by all; in a great South Coast venue where the “tribes” comfortably rubbed shoulders, and thankfully none of that idiotic drink throwing practice that has blighted certain gigs I have witnessed recently. In their twilight years, this band show no signs of throwing in the towel just yet, long may that continue. And while Jimmy and co still have fire in their bellies and something to write about, I’m confident there’s more to come from them. On tonight’s showing, they once again justify why they will no doubt be headlining Rebellion 2020 again next summer.

What Have We Got
Tear Gas Eyes
I Don’t Wanna
Ulster Boy
Rip Off
Bastille Cake
No Entry
Borstal Breakout
That’s Life
Give a Dog a Bone
Questions and Answers
White Riot (The Clash cover)
If The Kids Are United
Angels with Dirty Faces
Hersham Boys
Hurry Up Harry

The Mistakes
The Underdogs
Sin City
That’s What You Get
Never Be Quiet
Walk Tall
Quitters Get Nothing
Without Dead





Review and Videos by Ross A. Ferrone.
Pictures by Matthew Rayner.
Additional Video by Chris Sweet.

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