Songwriters' circles are common in America. On the Mississipi Delta bluesmen have gathered on each other's porches for centuries, taking it in turns to sing their songs and helping each other out on instrumentation. In Europe the practice is, however, less well known, and in Britain hardly at all.

While they bill themselves as "an acoustic punk supergroup", Dead Men Walking could also be described as a songwriters' circle. Like the Mississipi bluesmen, they too involve themselves in much swopping around of instrumentation and vocal duties. Like them too, the members of Dead Men Walking work to a rota, singing one song each and then passing on an imaginary baton to the next member of the band.

Dead Men Walking, whom tour annually and which features several of the best known musical figures of the late 70's and early 80's, have been through various structural changes since they first formed in the 90's. Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock and Alarm and Spear of Destiny frontmen Mike Peters and Kirk Brandon have, however, been mainstays since the beginning, and the group has recently been augmented with the adddition into its line-up of Big Country guitarist, Bruce Watson, and the band's first American member, Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom.

Matlock has a new solo album, the rough and ready 'On Something' to promote, and bangs his way through caustic versions of the title track and another of the new album's songs, 'Whose Side Are You On', before throwing in a rabble-rousing version of 'God Save the Queen' for good measure. Brandon plays solid versions of three of his best known songs, 'Propaganda', Westworld' and 'Young Men'. Peters only plays two Alarm numbers, the opening '68 Guns' and later on 'Rescue Me', but, the undoubted leader and stage manager of the group, he is the only other musician to remain on stage, while the other members of the group do brief, otherwise unaccompanied solo spots. Watson and Phantom also do not sing, and he takes lead vocals for most of their numbers.

While all three original members are excellent, it is, however, the newcomers who leave the most impression on the audience. It has been a bad night for the Scottish foootball team who earlier in the evebing have scraped their way to a 1-1 draw with Moldavia (Manager Bernie Vogts will be sacked a fortnight later). While Big Country's music has always left me personally cold, I am in a minority, and Watson, breaking all previous unplugged conventions of Dead Men Walking by playing an electric guitar throughout, does much to restore the audience's national pride with his former band and the late Stuart Adamson's stirring, patriotic guitar anthems. 'The Crossing', which closes the first of the band's two 50 minute sets, earns the biggest round of applause of the night, and 'In a Big Country', which appears towards the end of the second set, is met with similar rapturous reception.

Slim Jim Phantom is meanwhile a tour de force. Standing with his drum kit side on rather than facing the stage, tattoos and over-sized quiff glistening under the spotlights, he is every inch the rockabilly showman. Charged versions of the Stray Cats' 'Rumble in Brighton' (renamed for the night 'Rumble in Edinburgh') and 'Rock This Town'come early in the set. The show is closed with encores of the Cats' rumbustious rocker 'Runaway Boys' and then the Pistols 'Pretty Vacant'.

Dead Men Walking have achieved exactly what they have set out to do with this show,to turn the audience on to their own and the other members in the band's songs. At the end of the night the merchandise stall is very busy. Stray Cats fans buy Sex Pistols CDS, and Sex Pistols fans buy Alarm records. Big Country and Spear of Destiny fans also part with their money to buy records by the other members of Dead Mean Walking's main and previous bands. A Dead Men Walking live CD and DVD also does brisk business. Dead Men Walking's brand of nostalgia with a twist has a genuine sense of conviction. They are every bit the equal of their American counterparts.











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Commenting On: Venue, Edinburgh, 13/10/2004 - Dead Men Walking








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