I had the luck to be in Zagreb at exactly the right time to see the Buzzcocks, with no real margin of error -- two days later and I would have been in Ghana. Needless to say, the prospect of seeing one of the few remaining `77-vintage bands was pretty exciting, and the fact that I was going with my father made it all the more amusing. That's actually a good example of the character of the crowd: It looked to be mainly split between older people who had listened to the Buzzcocks in their heyday, and younger folks who think of them as "classic." This led to perhaps a slightly less animated crowd than Močvara usually draws, but everyone was very engaged by the show regardless of their energy.
Unusually, there wasn't an opener, so the show started rather late -- the doors only opened at 10:30, and the show an hour later. Despite the excellent pre-show DJing, which was mostly `77-`80 punk, the crowd was visibly impatient by the time the band took the stage, cheering wildly in anticipation every time a roadie showed his face. But the wait proved well worth it, as the Buzzcocks took the stage just when it looked like the crowd was getting genuinely annoyed, and after a huge round of applause and a quick exchange between Steve Diggle and the soundman, they broke directly into the title track of their new album, Flat-Pack Philosophy. Being mainly acquainted with their early material, circa Singles Going Steady, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid their new material sounds, considering that they've been around so long. On that note, I was particularly impressed by their sheer energy level -- they had far more energy at an average age of 45 or so than the majority of bands within the 18-25-years-old range out there. Pete Shelley was all over the place, which was particularly wild since he's this short, chubby good-natured looking guy with incredible energy and a maniacal voice. For his part, Diggle was flailing his guitar like a weapon, and took a lot of pleasure in interacting with the crowd during songs -- holding out the microphone, engaging sing-alongs, and so on. There wasn't really any other time for them to banter with the crowd; no pause between songs lasted more than ten seconds, with almost all of the hour and a half-long set being filled with consecutive songs.
And what songs they were. The band played a good deal of newer material -- I didn't recognize many songs other than "Flat-Pack Philosophy" and "Sell You Everything" -- but leaned heavily on their early stuff, a move which the crowd adored. The thing about hearing those songs live is that they really bring out the punkiness of the Buzzcocks far more than any recording. Recorded, Singles Going Steady sounds poppy and almost harmless, but live, songs like "I Don't Mind" and "Autonomy" sound downright ferocious while still being extremely tuneful. The band performed incredibly -- the trademark high-pitched guitar lines propelled the songs with incredible energy, Tony Barber's bass was a force of nature, and new drummer Danny Farrant was spot on. The crowd played their part well too: The entirety of the nearly-full club was clearly ecstatic, with a lively and well-tempered pit forming, but never turning too wild. Unfortunately, I'd spent most of the day coughing my lungs out, so I didn't venture in too deep, but it was a great crowd nonetheless. And the band deserved the response -- they played their hearts out, blasting through a huge amount of material in quick succession. They took a break for about a minute in the middle, dividing the night into two sets rather than a set and an encore. This worked well, as they never suffered the loss of momentum a pre-encore break might cause. Instead, they constantly built up force, culminating in the highlight of the show, a full-throttle rendition of "Noise Annoys," complete with the entire band going spastic on their instruments for an interlude that was very noisy indeed. They wound up with "Boredom," which was even more ironic than usual considering how contrary that sentiment was to the mood of the show. Afterward, Shelley and Diggle must have shook hands with half the crowd, and retreated in a mass of applause to get some well-deserved rest. Though the crowd of course wanted more, we were clearly well-satisfied with the fantastic show we'd gotten.
And it was just that, overall -- an amazing show put on by a band that's been going for two and a half decades and is still incredibly strong. I would say "catch these guys while you can," but they're not going anywhere. Instead, catch them for the incredible show they put on. While it of course wasn't absolutely perfect -- they excluded certain favourites, and an opener would have made the show all that much better -- this was one of the best shows I've seen recently. A 9/10. Partial set list, in vague order:
- Flat-Pack Philosophy (opener)
- Sell You Everything
- I Don't Mind
- Harmony in My Head
- What Do I Get?
- Why Can't I Touch It?
- Love You More
- Ever Fallen in Love? (first set closer)
- Noise Annoys
- Orgasm Addict