The second year of these awards, from the eclectic but punk-rooted Vive Le Rock magazine, came with high expectations after the energetic performances and benign mayhem that characterised 2018’s inaugural night. Ed Tudor-Pole proved an inspired choice of compere, his hilariously louche manner and diction like that of a disreputable brother of Jools Holland.

Glen Matlock kicked off proceedings, backed by the ‘house band’, the Vive Le Rockers. ‘Sexy Beast’ and ‘Keep on Pushing’ were fairly standard rock and blues (though the latter was elevated by some sharp slide guitar from Paul-Ronney Angel), not really the kind of thing that would have passed muster in his first band. As if to prove the point, he finished with ‘Pretty Vacant’, a song that still drips defiant vitriol.

He was soon back on-stage as part of the Rich Kids, their three songs more impressively heavy in that moment than my memory of their short career suggested.
Moving on to the awards, as last year some of them seemed to be given on the grounds of sheer longevity as much as any achievement, such as Pioneer to Barrie Masters of Eddie and the Hot Rods (who have recently retired from touring after over forty years).

Others recognised some now fallen through age or illness. Most touching was the presentation of the Roots award by Neville and Christine Staple, to honour the Beat featuring Ranking Roger. With horrible irony, the dynamic frontman had died the day before, and it was with real dignity that Christine spoke as Neville was too upset to do so, with Pauline Black of the Selecter accepting the award on the band’s behalf. At a time when the ska resurgence of the late 1970s and the social conditions which undelay it are strangely mirrored today, it was heartening to see the enduring bond between these pioneers of a special musical unity.

Pauline Murray of Penetration both presented the Rock in Peace award for Pete Shelley to his longstanding bandmate Steve Diggle and sang on ‘What Do I Get?’ one of Shelley’s classic wry ruminations on love and lust. It was a shame this team-up didn’t continue for the other songs, ‘Harmony in My Head’ and ‘Ever Fallen in Love’, where Diggle manfully sang lead.

Perhaps another sign of the nostalgia for the ska revival of 1979 was the Film award going to Madness’s Lee Thompson for ‘One Man’s Madness’, against competition like ‘The Public Image is Rotten’ and the Slits documentary ‘Here to Be Heard’.

One of the disappointments of the night was not hearing music from the newer talent being recognised. In the case of Idles, who won Album of the Year for ‘Joy as An Act of Resistance’, they simply weren’t able to attend because of other commitments (their friend Danny Nedelko, of the eponymous song, accepted for them) but the New Blood category winners, the Blue Carpet Band, were present and presumably correct.

Suzi Quatro, this year’s Icon, proudly spoke of her long career in music and, by playing Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Rock and Roller’ rather than one of her own hits, energetically acknowledged the tradition she’s a part of, while also being something of a pioneer and role model in the eyes of bands like Girlschool (two of whom presented the award to her.)

Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, a rock and also classical composer, won a merited Maverick trophy, keeping the mood light with a typically sly reference to the imminence of World War Three as he accepted it.

Unlike last year, where it felt like the music alternated with the award-giving much more easily, this year was more of a sandwich, with live music again coming to dominate after this string of awards. So Suzi Quatro was followed by Barrie Masters performing the Hot Rods’ hits (‘Teenage Depression’, the vacuous rebellion of ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ and ‘Get Out of Denver’), and a deliriously crazed performance from Tudor-Pole: what he proclaimed the “murder mystery” of ‘Who Killed Bambi?’ and the rousing ‘Swords of a Thousand Men’, or in this case two, as a mock-fight carried on beside Tudor-Pole as he himself merrily carried on.

The Stranglers powered slickly through a half-dozen song set. Hearing ‘Grip’ and ‘No More Heroes’ again with JJ Burnel’s grinding bass and Dave Greenfield’s tumbling keyboard lines, was a reminder of how distinctive their sound was compared to many other bands of their era, and they were well-received by their thrashing fans. But Band of the Year? In 2019?

Still, that may be unfair. Vive Le Rock primarily exists to celebrate punk music, but in doing so showed itself this night to be broadminded enough to recognise both that music’s roots in rock and roll and its debt to genres like ska. But another time I would hope to hear more new music, both from those who have endured over long careers and from upcoming bands, who themselves will hopefully be celebrated at future nights like this.


Photos by Brian Jordan
www.celebrityphotosuk.com















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