Post Punk Revivalism at the Hard Rock
After Wednesday’s experience with French new wave bossa nova covers in Chinatown, Thursday night found me witnessing a free, late-announced Gang Of Four show at the Hard Rock Café, newly relocated to the heart of Times Square. The event was ostensibly a launch for Urb magazine’s ‘Next 100’ documentary, an on-screen rendition of the magazine’s spring time issue, for which the post-punk pioneers from Leeds were somehow hyped as newcomers alongside the legions of contemporary upstarts they’ve indisputably influenced.
None of this would have mattered had the room been overflowing with hard-core fans, as at Irving Plaza for the group’s ‘comeback’ shows earlier this year, but the combination of last-minute announcement and the CMJ convention’s usual plethora of alternate choices for freeloaders meant that Jon King, Andy Gill, Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham played to a room at barely one third its capacity. In the dressing room afterwards, Dave Allen lamented how he’d suspected the night would play out this way but that they’d taken the show anyway. “Lesson learned,” he concluded and I didn’t now whether to feel happy or sad that the Gang of Four are still learning the ropes some 27 years down the line.
There’s not much to say about their superb set that I didn’t note back in May; it was, far as I could tell, the same show. Instead, let me reserve some praise for the Hard Rock itself. Its relocation from 57th Street to the Times Square end of Broadway is surely a reaction to the success of BB King’s Bar & Grill, a 42nd Street venue popular with tourists and day-trippers – and which I only finally attended a few weeks back, for The Raspberries’ reunion. Nestled in a former club at which I remember seeing some Scandinavian techno-industrial act about five years ago, the Hard Rock is blessed with absolutely superb sight lines, the kind that actually make concert going a rewarding experience. For the Gang of Four, the sound was superb; for the DJ set that followed, the floor-shaking bass had a disastrous floor-clearing effect that the club’s blonde trio of paid stage dancers could do little to slow.
While it was hard to judge the Hard Rock on this CMJ/Urb shindig – drinks were free all night, which explains the crush at the bar – there are ample reasons to return. Among them, the Hard Rock’s oft-forgotten but ever-impressive collection of rock’n’roll souvenirs. If those don’t come much more obscure than John Entwistle’s jail cell inventory from his Houston bust back in 1975, they can’t come much more celebrated than a full set of Beatle suits, such as greet the audience when they descend from Broadway to the bowels of the club. The Hard Rock is not exactly the Cavern, but it’s a better venue than many an over-rated East Village dive. The Gang Of Four meanwhile, are guaranteed a bigger audience when they play with another successfully reformed band, The Pixies, at Across The Pond, the two-borough, two-day festival spanning Brooklyn and Staten Island, the first weekend of October.