Previously I have only seen Chumbawamba playing an acoustic set, so I was looking forward to seeing them play the Sheffield Boardwalk with a slightly different line up and with material from their new album.

Support was provided by the Repomen, who played a good set, much improved on the previous time I had seen them crushed into the small space of another local venue, the Grapes. The sound was better and they seemed less nervous and ready to have a good time.

Dead Like Harry were next up. They are worth going to see. Although obviously 80's inspired, their material was original and fresh and their influences appear to be varied. Rumour was that a signing is imminent.

There's no way you can accuse Chumbawamba of going through the motions. It was party-time from the start. The Boardwalk was quite full for Sheffield on a Tuesday night, and everyone was ready to dance and sing along - they weren't going to be disappointed.

Chumba's new album, 'Un', according to their website, is unlike anything they have done before and, whilst avoiding the World Music tag, is less English sounding and more uplifting. I hadn't listened to any of their non-acoustic material for some time, so was interested to find two of my friends disagreeing over this, with one saying it sounded just like their old stuff and the other saying she wasn't going to dance to any of the new material. She didn't keep that up for long! With a really Latin American feel Chumba had the crowd on their feet and dancing - even the old songs lacked the melancholy they lay claim to - and their enthusiasm was infectious. I was happy - they played 'Bella Ciao', one of my favourites which really came to life, retaining the trumpet as in the acoustic version, but the use of an electric guitar and drums this time made all the difference.

As well as the new material, there were also some old favourites. During 'Big Mouth Strikes Again' co-singers Alice Nutter and Danbert Nobacon came on stage dressed as a nun and a vicar, with Alice downing pints of Guinness and offering drinks to the audience. 'The Day the Nazi Died' and 'Enough is Enough' were particularly apt and Chumba changed the lyrics on the latter due to the voter apathy during the recent local and European elections to "Where have all the anti-fascists gone?"

For 'A Man Walks into a Bar' Danbert made a cocktail and presented it to someone in the audience, turning a performance into a performance piece, with cocktail shaking and bottle juggling that would put most bartenders to shame. How many people though would know that the song is about Bacardi's role in the Cuban blockades and their interest in keeping real Cuban rum out of the market ? Sadly these days most pop music is superficial and created just to make money, whilst most political music is inaccessible to many people. Chumbawamba's new material could well bridge that gap - I think it's time they had another hit - maybe this time they'll make number 1, but without the music industry marketing machine behind them it's doubtful.

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Commenting On: Boardwalk, Sheffield, London, 15/6/2004 - Chumbawamba

ie London, England

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