The first awards night of 'Vive Le Rock' proved as eclectic, energetic and at times downright crazed as the magazine itself. Several hundred fans crowded into the Islington O2, and if many of them, like the artists, were of a certain age for whom black is always in season, that just evidenced the continuing devotion of all concerned to the music.

The proceedings were hosted by the Wildhearts’ Ginger Wildheart, whose own fandom came across in an unaffected, heartfelt way as he introduced the winners and presenters of awards, most memorably when his broad Geordie accent announced with a mixture of awe and incredulity, “Shakin’ fookin’ Stevens!” (Yes, the latter does look exactly the same as in his days of Top 10 residency.) Other presenters included Richard Jobson (Skids), Steve Diggle (Buzzcocks), Brix Smith Start (Fall/Brix & The Extricated) and Andy Czezowski (co-manager of the Roxy club in punk’s heyday).

But the most surreal presentation of all was Band of the Year, by soberly attired football coach and pundit Stuart Pearce, to the Damned’s Dave Vanian (resembling an especially elegant undertaker) and Captain Sensible, understatedly dressed in what appeared to be a pink leopard skin housecoat. Sensible took the opportunity to take aim at revisionists of punk history (specifically Jon Savage), affirming punk as a working-class achievement rather than the plaything of Svengalis like Malcom McLaren and Bernard Rhodes.

Several winners expressed gratitude for their first ever award. Cock Sparrer – looking like a darts team who’d stopped off on their way to the pub – won the Live category, while Booze & Glory triumphed as New Blood: somewhat improbably, as they’ve been around in some form since 2009. Still, it was nice to see these bands’ genuine appreciation at some sort of recognition, which is all the harder to achieve nowadays amidst the flood of Internet-enabled music.

Other punk veterans honoured were the reformed Professionals (with Sex Pistol Paul Cook back on drums) for Album of the Year with ‘What in the World’, and the UK Subs’ Charlie Harper, his long career acclaimed as the King Rocker/Icon. Despite this clear tilt towards classic punk, the evening also spared some room for artists who took something from it but as one musical or attitudinal element among several. Thus we had the Cure (Pioneer, accepted on behalf of the reclusive Robert Smith by Kirk Brandon), the Selecter (Roots), and Michael Monroe (International Artist), hilariously over the top in his New York Dolls-style blonde thatch and shades, as was his high kicking over the mic before his acceptance speech.

But what made the night so entertaining above all was precisely that it wasn’t one long parade of presentations and speeches; instead, these were regularly interspersed with fine mini-sets either from the bands themselves (the Professionals delivered three songs which had much of the rhythmic and riff-laden energy of Cook’s original band) or vocalists like Harper and Stevens backed by the Vive Le Rock All-Stars, the highlight of these being a fiery performance of the MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ fronted by the elastic-limbed Monroe.

Fittingly the Damned crowned the night with several of their own classics. After 41 years ‘New Rose’ still smelled fresh as a newly-purchased leather jacket. They were one of the first bands this writer ever saw (supporting T.Rex at the Rainbow in 1977), and even while the evidence of your eyes tells you of the years that have gone by, when great rock music hits you like tonight your energy floods back and the past reconnects with the present in an electric circuit as you mouth “I’ve got a new rose/I’ve got it good”, a sense of life that’s summed up in the words “Vive Le Rock!”

Photography by My Big Day Event Photography

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