Crazy Pink Revolvers split the crowd. Some don’t like them. Some think they’re great. I’m with the latter. Formed by Stan Stammers in 1986 after his days with Theatre Of Hate and Spear Of Destiny, disbanding in 1989, reforming in late 2017 and featuring Chris Bell, current TOH gigging drummer, these are their first live shows for nearly 30 years. They released two albums back in the day although seven of tonight’s 10 song set come from second album ‘At The Rivers Edge’ with two more from 1987’s ‘Timeless Smile’ EP. Whilst it could be argued that Stammers is not a singer their songs stand the test of time – listen to the chilled beat of ‘Wednesday 19:45’ or the slashing guitar post punk rock of ‘The Driver’ and ‘Brixton Nights’ - with some great guitar work by Adam Bolton and wicked twin bass sounds from Stammers and Tris Reignier on rhythm bass. A great opening act.
As is always the case Spear Of Destiny are welcomed on Teesside like long lost friends. Tonight turns out to be a celebration of two fantastic albums. Recently released Tontine – superb both musically and lyrically, full of snarling lyrics, pounding rhythms, singalong chorus’s. “Muppets working the puppets, just for fun” - opening the set with ‘Brighton’ sets the tone. It’s heavy, menacing, full of rumbling bass from Craig Adams and piercing guitar work from Adrian Portas backed with solid drumming from Phil Martini and subtle keyboards curtesy of Steve Allan Jones. ‘MK Ultra’ with it’s chanting chorus and sinister content (CIA mind control), ‘Medievalists’ bounces along with a much more dance around friendly beat but listen to the lyrics and things haven’t changed much “Some people don’t mind dying, they just don’t wanna live / Sticks and stones will break my bones, bombs will really destroy me.” Add in ‘Second Life’, ‘Afrikan Proverb’, which sadly took some explaining for a few people, the beautiful, almost ballad that is ‘Second Life’ and single ‘Mr Livingston’ with it’s gentle acoustic guitar backing Brandon’s story about a friend whose life didn’t go so well, suddenly erupting into a powerful noise as Brandon yells out “Mr Livingstone I presume”.
Tontine is classic Spear Of Destiny and it would have been a great night if they’d simply hammered their way through the whole album. But 2018 also marks 35 years since the release of what many regard as one of Spear Of Destiny’s greatest albums. Their debut long player, Grapes Of Wrath, is full of clattering drums, thumping beats and perfect sax topped off with Kirk Brandon’s distinct vocals. Less raw than ‘Tontine’, more subtle but no less powerful even without the sax it’s a real treat to hear ‘The Preacher’, ‘Roof Of The World’, ‘Grapes Of Wrath’, ‘The Wheel’ and the brilliant guitar work of it’s B side - ‘The Hop’. Add in the perfect singalongs that are ‘World Service’ and ‘Comeback’ and an encore featuring the rousing ‘King Of Kings’ and ‘Liberator’ it’s little wonder many left tonight saying it was the best Spear performance they’d ever seen.