New York musician Paul Collins has a reputation in power pop circles far in excess of the girth of his catalogue. Beginning with the Nerves, the Breakaways and continuing in the Beat, he helped lay down the template for the power pop genre. Now, as an elder statesman of the form he’s returned to recording with a trio of well-received new albums, releases of material by his earlier bands and promoting a community of fans and groups with the Beat Army.

For his show at Babylon as part of a mini-tour of Canada, he had a trio of his disciples in tow: Ottawa quartet Mother’s Children and two of Montreal’s finest, the Walnut Kids and Sonic Avenues.

The scrappy Walnut Kids started things off. The band is not noted for its polish, with previous shows in the city being noted for a lackadaisical approach to tuning. Their dedication to major-chord songs about girls is, however, never in doubt and this time around their set was quite tight and speedy, with the band zipping through their short set, ending up with the one-two punch of a hard-hitting run through the Real Kids ‘All Kinds of Girls’ and their own ‘Sabrina, Sabrina’.

The Sonic Avenues' skills have been honed by playing next to a traffic-crowded street (thus the name), and having done aural battle with rush-hour traffic the veteran foursome had no problem flooring the crowd with their powerful, Who-worshipping attack.

Mother’s Children have already gathered a dedicated local following. Growing out of spiky local punks Sick Fits and gunk-rock combo the Million Dollar Marxists the band has twisted a punchy sound from their love of glam rock, 1970s Rolling Stones and power pop.

None of the three openers took up too much stage time. It was on and off to make way for the main event, their idol Paul Collins and band.

Collins has gained a few bands and lost the mop of hair since helping to lay down the tracks that buttress his current fame more than thirty years ago, but his sound hasn’t aged a day.

Starting with his best known song, ‘Hanging On the Telephone’ - written by Nerves bandmate Jack Lee and made famous by Blondie, Collins and company tore through songs old and new. From his days with the Nerves came ‘Working Too Hard’, followed by the Beat’s ‘Let Me Into Your Life’ and the title track of their 1982 LP, ‘The Kids Are the Same’. There were also a few tunes from more recent albums, such as 'Rock ‘n’ Roll Shoes' from 'Flying High' and ‘Hey DJ’ and ‘She Doesn’t Want to Hang Around With You’from 'Ribbon of Gold'.

Despite some joking about the air conditioning in the van making his voice a little ragged, he sounded in top form. His band is anchored by a Spanish rhythm section (power pop and garage rock have a healthy following in that country) and a feisty new guitarist to trade licks with, and the new songs stood as proud of the old.

The crowd, most of them the same age as he was when he was releasing his first recordings were happy to see the the clock turned back to 1979. A bevy of young ladies were delighted to jump on stage and twist along to 'Rock 'n' Roll Girl'. His new album dubs him ‘The King of Powerpop’ - it may not be far from the truth.

Paul Collins Beat set list:

Hanging On the Telephone
Working Too Hard
Let Me Into Your Life
The Kids Are the Same
I Still Want You
That’s What Life Is All About
Work-A-Day World
Fallin’ In Love
She Doesn’t Want to Hang Around With You
Hey DJ
I Don’t Fit In
Rock’n’Roll Shoes
Look But Don’t Touch
Rock 'n' Roll Girl
Walking Out On Love

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