Due to the vagaries of Virgin Trains making a three-hour journey into one pushing almost five and a half, it’s CAPTAIN EVERYTHING who get my evening off to a start. Lew says they haven’t played for three months and boy, does it show. They bound around like excitable puppies being injected with amphetamines (well, Lew does, while you’d have to use some industrial pliers and a job lot of Swarfega to remove the smile from Jon’s face as Blake manages to be that rarest of entities, a drummer who engages brilliantly with the audience even when he’s not hitting stuff) and the cobwebs are annihilated by the time ‘Kalimbah!’ is finished.
But a C*E gig at the Underworld is what Christmas is all about, and to celebrate the band celebrate by simply being as good as they always are. What’s most pleasing about tonight is that they seem to be growing into Buena Vista Bingo Club in the most mature of ways, as ‘My Life as Allen Smithee’ and ‘You vs Brain’ received receptions as rapturous as true classics like ‘My Girlfriend’s Dad Owns A Sweatshop’. A huge proportion of the crown was going utterly nuts throughout their set, and the singalongs were nothing but a joy. Fabulous in the way that only they can be ? long may they continue existing and making people happy. Jesus, how many bands could do a Take That homage and really get away with it?
Let’s not beat around the bush. PROPAGANDHI‘s imminent arrival has turned the Underworld into a sweating, seething mass, as packed as ever I’ve seen it. The primal roar that greeted the opening chords of ‘A Speculative Fiction’ made 400 sets of neck hairs stand on end as four men from Winnipeg proceeded to school the attending punks in how to put on a show, without resorting to synchronised star jumps, guitar-spinning or offering weak ?You guys are the best audience we’ve ever played to? platitudes. A thrillingly taut ‘Fuck the Border’ led into ‘Rock For Sustainable Capitalism’ and by now glances are being exchanged as everyone begins to realise that, yes, this is one of the most astonishing gigs they’ll ever go to.
Dusting off ‘Stick The Fucking Flag Up Your Ass’ as a little treat was only a precursor to ‘Haillie Sellasse Up Your Ass’, mutating into a thudding stomp with the help of new guitarist Beaver that made the floor shake. It’s not just the passion that Propagandhi play with that makes them an astonishing live band, but watching Todd pinball around the stage as it looked like Chris’ neck was going to pop under pressure certainly gave the gig an edge. And when the brilliant inevitability of ‘Back to the Motor League’ and ‘Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes’ flood the senses, fists are raised and words are screamed, sometimes unintelligibly.
Closing with ‘Iteration’ and a ‘Purina Hall of Fame’ that shook the eyeballs of everyone present, I could only think one thing: It’s worth waiting five years to get a performance of this calibre.