On a chilly April evening Gang of Four, centred around sole remaining original member Andy Gill, played a fiery set in the intimate confines of the Borderline. Spanning the band’s entire career, with songs drawn mainly from 1979’s epochal ‘Entertainment!’ and this year’s ‘Happy Now’ (note the lack of a question mark), the trio of accomplices Gill has gradually assembled during this century - vocalist John ‘Gaoler’ Sterry, bassist Thomas McNeice and drummer Tobias Humble - showed themselves to have really become a band now.

McNeice somehow managed to dance with his bass on the Borderline’s small stage as he continually laid down strong lines, while Humble’s drumming had that combination of power and inventive fills that you expect from the Gang of Four’s distinctive brand of rock-funk. Sterry doesn’t have a very distinctive voice, but he delivered the songs with conviction and a presence that sometimes suggested John Lydon’s malevolent stare, at others Ian Curtis’ anguish.

Gill’s guitar was barbed and resonant, an echo in a sense of the lyrics found in songs such as ‘Damaged Goods’ and ‘Ether’, the latter’s Ulster references suddenly even more potent with the announcement of trials of British soldiers for murder in the early Seventies. The least histrionic of musicians, he stood barely moving while teasing out stiletto-sharp riffs, an enigmatic, black-clad uncle amongst his boisterous nephews.

Despite strong performances throughout, so that on the night newer songs like ‘Paper Thin’ blended well with classics like ‘At Home He’s A Tourist’ from ‘Entertainment!’, it remains the case that the latter set the bar so high for the Gang Of Four in terms of power and popularity that no version of the band has ever quite reached it again.
It’s those forty year-old songs alone which now prompt spontaneous audience participation. Maybe it’s a sign of domestication of what was once the leading edge of provocative post-punk. But I doubt that anyone there minded filling their heads with such culture.

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