Sunday 11 December 2011

TV Smith and The Valentines play the Best of The Adverts

OK, this is where any remaining shred of objectivity goes out the window. I've been a fan of The Adverts for nearly 30 years and their debut album, Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts, is one of my all-time favourite records. Typically for me I got into the band long after they'd disbanded and frontman TV Smith had moved on to his not-hugely-successful solo career.

The Adverts are remembered, if at all, for their topically tasteless 1977 single, Gary Gilmore's Eyes and for the "Punk Pin-Up" status of female bass-player, Gaye Advert. But they really had much more going for them. Tim "TV" Smith was a sardonic, intelligent frontman in an era of often deliberately dumbed-down Punk personalities, as well as one of the finest lyricists to come out of that time. His songs were often ironic commentaries on the UK in general and the Punk scene in particular, dressed up in a unique world-view of crumbling decadence.

So, there was no way I was going to miss the chance to see Smith perform his classic Adverts songs at Bristol's grimy rock 'n' roll emporium, The Fleece. And on my mate Glenn's birthday, too. Perfect.
But would TV live up to expectations? I mean, I would count The Adverts as my favourite Punk band after the Pistols and The Clash; I'd first bought their debut album on cassette when I was a teenager, wore that out , then bought it again on red (!) vinyl; bought every second-hand single I could get hold of; spent literally years hunting for their ( ultimately disappointing ) second album; etc. etc. That's a lot to live up to...

I didn't need to worry. After sinking a few pints in the pub next door ( with a bunch of friends including, bizarrely, Gaye Advert's sister, Wendy... ) and watching a lackluster support set by Charred Hearts, I headed down the front to the sounds of Punk classic No Time To Be 21.

TV Smith is a wired, wizened, lightning-bolt of barely-suppressed energy. With his hair left to go grey and his strange, slow-motion stage moves he's like a Punk Albert Steptoe , albeit a Steptoe singing some of the sharpest lyrics ever, in a voice still clear, strong and distinctive.

The Valentines are a fine, no-nonsense band from Italy who capture the scratchy, slashy sound of The Adverts perfectly. There will never be an Adverts reunion ( the bass-player's retired from music, the guitarist's dead, the drummer... who knows? ) but this lot are the next best thing and clearly love what they're doing. And so does Mister Smith. He treats us to classic after classic, screeching Punk rock bombshells bursting over the crowd...

( That's my copy of the set-list, nicked from the stage. )
I have to admit to becoming quite emotional as the set went on: I never thought I'd hear songs like On The Roof or Newboys played live by their author and I found it quite overwhelming. TV thrust the mike into my face so I could "sing" along to Bombsite Boy and Great British Mistake - my absolute fave Adverts song:

The great British mistake was looking for a way out
Was getting complacent
Not noticing the pulse was racing
The mistake was fighting the change
Was staying the same

The venue properly erupted for the last three guttersnipe anthems, as TV took the Adverts story full-circle to their first single, One Chord Wonders. They encored with Coming In To Land, the title track from his new album ( pretty damn good! ), the festive-but-funny whinge of Christmas Bloody Christmas and Adverts classic Cast Of Thousands.

Here I am at the front of the stage, looking as happy as a dog with two dicks. ( And that's pretty happy! )

And here with the man himself, Mister Tim Smith, who turned out to be a lovely, funny guy, who was quite happy to have a drink and a laugh with starstruck fans like me and seemed genuinely happy that he'd made my day...

Here he is again with me and birthday boy Glenn...

And with the same two reprobates, but with added Punkette glamour from Angie and Carol.

I've heard it said many times that you should never meet your heroes, they'll always disappoint. Well, not in this case. It was a pleasure to meet such a proper gentleman after half a lifetime of enjoying his music. Maybe I shouldn't leave it so long next time...

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