UltraBomb - Live In London (Cover Artwork)


Live In London (2023)

live show

Review written by Dom Tyer

It's been 36 years since Hüsker Dü bassist Greg Norton stood on a London stage and that alone makes the gig a must-see event for the UK capital's punk rock cognoscenti. The fact that he's here with another kick-ass punk power trio, supergroup UltraBomb, merely underlines that fact.
At the Camden Underworld, capacity 500, UltraBomb are sandwiched snugly on a bill between the toe-tappingly fun Ziphead (surely the best rockabilly-ska-punk band from St. Albans) and headliner The Bar Stool Preachers, with whom they toured the US earlier this year and whose big-hearted anthems always draw a loyal following. UltraBomb were only formed in 2021 and also includes Finny McConnell - frontman with Canadian-Irish punks The Mahones and British drummer Jamie Oliver, whose CV includes stints with UK Subs, Anti-Nowhere League, and more. 

They put out a strong debut album last year with Time to Burn, but the transatlantic trio’s touring plans were beset by a variety of circumstances (not least the diagnosis of cancer from which Greg has now recovered). So, anticipation was high when they took the stage at the Underworld, less than a mile from the Town and Country Club (now The Forum in Kentish Town), where Greg played when he was last in London with Hüsker Dü. The bassist is the first of UltraBomb to take the stage and he spends a moment or two nonchalantly surveying the crowd. It’s the most still he’ll be for the next 40 minutes or so. Often airborne, frequently keeping jackhammer time, Greg stalks the stage exuberantly. His obvious enthusiasm is infectious and it’s no surprise when, halfway through the set, his ‘Not Dead Yet’ Frank Turner cap takes its leave from his head. Meanwhile, Finny too works hard to carry the crowd, pulling guitar hero poses and taking a drink for the recently departed Shane McGowan, in whose memory he treats us to a snatch of "Dirty Old Town", famously covered by The Pogues.

Opening with "Time to Burn", the album’s title track drops the subtlety of its recorded version to become a double-time punk rock banger. Bookending new song "Broken Heart", the trio’s "Fear Your Gods" and "Stickman Vs Hangman" channel "Ice Cold Ice" era Hüsker Dü in different directions to thrilling effect. Finny takes lead vocals on their original material, while Greg steps up to the mike for some of their covers, and – in the best power trio tradition - there’s a real sense of a band with two frontmen.
The trio doesn’t shy away from their Hüsker connections, with Finny noting that he was in the pit at the Town and Country Club the first time he saw Greg. There are also three Hüsker Dü covers at the Underworld, with Greg leading on "It's Not Funny Anymore" and Finny taking "Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely". Greg also steps up to the mike for the Dead Boys’ "Sonic Reducer", his voice sounding stronger than the recorded version that’s on Time to Burn .
There's plenty of punk rock supergroups around, it felt like something of a Covid effect as bunches of bored punk lifers joined forces. There’s also plenty of bands that have studied the Hüsker Dü blueprint for inspiration. But none have an actual Hüsker Dü member in their ranks and few can match UltraBomb’s musical power and drive. Far from creating a pastiche of former glories, the psyche-power-pop-a-punk on display in London is explosive stuff. And they’re busy reloading their armoury – the day after the London show Ultrabomb are in the studio to start recording album number two.
Before that, they close the show with Jamie Oliver hamming the hell out of Hüsker Dü’s "New Day Rising", band and the audience screaming along to the tune’s three words of lyrics, and Greg – caught up in the moment – dancing a little jig of joy. London waited 13,312 days for Greg Norton to return to the stage. Together with Finny McConnell and Jamie Oliver, he delivered an amazing first UK gig for UltraBomb.