This was set to be a cracker! A night at The Con Club in Lewes with a return to the south coast from punk legends Chelsea. Guests for the night were The DeRellas. It was a Saturday night and so anything could happen! A packed in enthusiastic crowd were in for one helluva ride!
It was in August 1976 that Gene October placed an advert in Melody Maker which led to replies from guitarist William Broad, bassist Tony James and drummer John Towe. On October 18th they made their live debut as Chelsea supporting Throbbing Gristle at London’s ICA. It was at this time that Gene convinced the manager of gay London nightclub in Covent Garden called Shageramas, to convert the club into London’s first live punk rock venue called The Roxy – a fact for which he is given little credit. The band split in November 1976 where Gene briefly recruited guitarist Marty Stacey & bassist Bob Jessie. The other three former members formed Generation X. When Gene was asked about his former band colleagues he said “Generation X? Oh yeah they used to be in Chelsea.”
Gene, always enigmatic and hypnotising to watch, was on top form tonight. He stretched and pushed those vocal chords to the packed venue who had come to see these guys play. Nic hit the stage and just blasted his SG at us – full tilt and then some. He didn’t stand still for the hour long set, and he always delivers a masterclass and puts on a great show. A top bass delivery from the brilliant Mat. He powered some great bass lines and the sound jostled your lower intestines as the bass hit you. The newest member of the band was awesome Steve at the back, on the kit. He delivered a great thundering punk, rock and roll percussion wall of sound for the band.
CHELSEA: THE SET
I had been having a look through the merch desk, and it was a delight to see so many Chelsea albums available again on Vinyl! It is from that impressive catalogue that the songs were drawn tonight to deliver a truly impressive set list. And so we were off as Gene took to the stage in jeans and striped shirt. No Admission was the opener tonight and followed by the title track of their last release Mission Impossible. Now I had heard some of Chelsea material, back in the day, but never had the chance to see them live. Anyway, back to now, what a way to open up a show. We then had 12 men fired at us followed by the sublime punk anthem Come On, with Gene delivering a full on assault with his shouts of “Come On” and the assembled crowd at The Con Club joining in.
One thing that struck me during this gig, and as noted before, was the sense of camaraderie between all of the band members. They watched each other, bounced off each other and cracked the odd joke. But they looked to be having a damn good time, just as we were! Awesome show! Chatting with the guys before the show they said they hadn’t played in a short while – well tonight they blew away the cobwebs and the crowd! How do You Know was followed by a firm favourite of mine I’m On Fire. Gene absolutely powered at us for this as the band seemed to step it up it to match!
It was easy to miss Steve, sat at the back in almost total darkness, but make no mistake you could hear him. The drums powering through the sound supporting the guys up front delivering the Chelsea message. Loner, and another top tune No Flowers came at us hard and fast. Not quite so much chat from Gene this time around although he did regularly ask us if we were alright. Johnny Has No Respect and the biting No Ones Coming Outside were next on the list. Stunning live renditions of classics.
War Across The Nation and Urban Kids marked the “end” of the set. Gene had other ideas “We have got another 15 songs for you” he said, and I have to say the band looked 100% up for it! SAD, Fashion and Evacuate were up next.
Last Drink and the set finale Right To Work did indeed bring things to a close. The Lewes gig, although perhaps not full to capacity, was busy and didn’t look far off selling out. With the last few years of appearances and otherwise growing show attendances this is a band on top form. These guys will give you a performance. It will be full of energy and neither the material or band members showing any sign of age. Chelsea are a unique treasure, full of power and a unique swagger of their own. Chelsea have given the Punk movement more than a fair share of anthems and this includes the magnificent “Right To Work”. Last time I saw Chelsea there were two guitarists, tonight it was down to Nic to kick the air, add to chorus vocals and otherwise beat seven bells out of his guitar. He does it all with his unique style and character.
If only all bands that have done the distance sounded this good. You put two powerhouses playing stringed instruments – Nic (guitar) and Mat (bass) – put a top drummer at the back, Steve, and then to top it all off the awesome character of Gene up front – put it all together and you get the unstoppable CHELSEA. Chelsea played a set that impressed the hell out of me tonight and I can happily say that I have no problem in reporting that fact. I am pretty sure that if they can keep up with such a high standard, I would be more than happy to pay, and go see them again.
Well played Chelsea – we all had an absolute blast! Come back soon!
CHELSEA: A VIDEO
Chelsea are on the WWW
Chelsea are on Facebook
The promotion team were Brighton based Punker Bunker – Thanks guys – a great night!
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