Pere Ubu and Rattle live at Bush Hall shepherds bush 13.9.19.
This show is the opening night of Pere Ubu's The Long Goodye tour to promote the bands latest and possibly final album the Long Goodbye that David Thomas has described as finalizing the story Pere Ubu began forty years ago and as David revealed onstage that during his serious illness in the last couple of years he died twice. He has managed to survive and make one more album the title of this album and tour is quite literal.
As a long term fan since the mid 80's I sincerely hope that the Long Goodbye tour goes on for a good few years but know it may be a good deal shorter than that unless they really can perfect the hologram version of David to seamlessly carry on when he is no longer with us.
I got into the Bush hall just after Rattle had begun their short set. They are a female duo from Derby who both play a single drum-kit while facing each other while Tez only plays drums Katy also used her voice as much as an additional instrument as to sing with as the lyrical content was minimal.
Now the first time I saw a band with two drummers was back in 1984 when Nico regularly had two drummers in her band and one of those drummers Graham Dowdall is stood at the side of the stage with another totally legendary drummer Chris Cutler who are both watching and listening to the tribal and quite bass heavy ambient dub rhythm's Rattle are creating that reminds me a lot in places of Debbie Harry's Invocation To Papa Legba with elements of tribal drumming and also something more rooted and sounding like Deer France did on John Cale' sabotage tour. It really had some groove to it while trying to figure out if you watch a band with only two drummers and at no point do either of them take a solo does that mean I've not just seen a long drum solo but just a drum duel or duet instead, either way Rattle are well worth seeing live.
The current line-up of Pere Ubu is of course David Thomas on vocals with Keith Moline On Guitar and Graham Dowdall on Keyboards and synths and Chris Cutler is back on drums as he was when I first saw Pere Ubu in the mid 80's. It took David about 5 minutes to get onstage and he was helped up the stairs by the venues security staff and it was clear that David is now struggling to stand up and walk and needs wheelchair friendly stages. Watching this brought a tear to quite a few eyes in the packed Bush hall audience and David and everyone else looked relieved once he was seated on stage and ready to begin The Long Goodbye as along with playing the new album David interspersed it with reading from his new book Baptized Into The Buzz.
53 Words From David Thomas begins by explaining that The Long Goodbye is one of the Philip Marlowe novels by Raymond Chandler and how the first song he wrote with Pere Ubu featured lyrics that he lifted from Raymond Chandlers books and then the band slowly eased into a quite taut and tense version of Heart Of Darkness that was the only greatest hit they played all night. David then continued his narration of the life of the band and his recent travails while reminding us how much he liked Elliot Gould as Philip Marlowe in the film although not as much as he liked Humphrey Bogart's version, as Chris cutler tries to make the sound of someone Flicking Cigarettes At The Sun on his cymbals and Keith Molines guitar seems to be guiding things along as we all consider what it is about Marlowe that fascinates so much and is this a better or just a different re-working of the Marlowe legend to the one Dan Stuart has spread over several albums now.
But then David insists we are headed towards Bay City a place where haunting synth sounds mark your every movement while you consider Kerouac and Eisenhower's influence on Pere Ubu and how the band will continue to be open for Business long after anyone has noticed or not noticed David's crossing to the other side, I'm sure he has an algorithm at the ready to continue re-working his old vocals into new songs seamlessly once he's gone. But for now Marlowe P.I. has gone off in search of Harry Partch both in the music and the lyrical content as they both rise in intensity while David and the band searched in vain while wondering Who Stole The Signpost that I guess was next to the bottle of red wine David has been sipping from all night.
Is this The World (As We can Know It) or just the wonderful world of Pere Ubu it certainly sounds like it's as adventurous as they have ever been and as always David sings about and wonders about the voices in his head and if they aren't really him or who are the last Americans and in these times that could be a far more real question than it once was. Skidrow-On Sea with it's repeated calls that this town is rotten to the core, well of course it is took us towards the end of the set that they closed with Lovely Day that was a pretty morose sounding day to be honest but still a great ending.
It was no surprise that David didn't get up to leave the stage and instead talked through the clapping and told us the encore would begin with Road To Utah while thanking us for being there and making sure we understood that he'll be continuing this tour as long as he can and as the song got going it reminds me a lot of the Two Pale Boys side of his career but very much another tale of the wilderness. Running Dry was like a distorted blues refracted though the synth noises and out there guitar as Chris Cutlers as ever mesmeric drumming got it just where we needed to go which was Highwaterville and David did ask us a good few times where we are going before saying goodnight. As he was slowly helped off the stage almost everyone stood clapping and cheering at such an incredible performance from an obviously frail legend who proved once more that he is still a musical behemoth.