Blackstar Promotions bring the formidable team of The Vapors and Department S to the Con Club in the town of Lewes, time for a pre Christmas knees up.
Now listen, don’t ever let anyone ever tell you The Vapors are a one song band, and yes it was a monster of a song. The last time I saw these guys was in a club in Edinburgh, way back in the day. So after many years, and after missing them play at The Ropetackle in Shoreham, I was back in front of them. I was looking forward to this.
The band, all hailing from Surrey formed in 1979 and after establishing themselves locally as an exciting live outfit got their big break after ‘The Jam’ Bass player Bruce Foxton saw them playing in a local pub and invited them to tour with The Jam on the ‘Setting Sons’ tour. Paul Wellers Father John undertook Management duties for the band and after signing to United Artists the band released a number of singles beginning with Prisoners’ in 1979 and followed up with what would become their biggest hit ‘Turning Japanese’ which peaked at Number 3 in the UK singles chart in 1980 taken from their first album ‘New Clear Days’(1980).
The band took to the stage to a huge cheer from a sold out Con Club in Lewes. Secret was the first song of the night followed up with King L. A Perfect opening salvo from The Vapors. The Vapors have accrued a damn fine collection of songs all with fine melodies and their unique lyric style. The crowd was made from a wide age range and chatting to a few had come from far and wide. Some still talking about a gig in Shoreham, I was asked many times “Did you go?” or “Were you there?”. Trains and Daylight Titans were served up and delivered.
THE BAND: In slides…
I managed to grab a few short words with Dave pre – set and introduced myself. I have to note here that the foursome played a terrific set full of gentle good humour and carried it all off with a quiet state of understated style and grace. I was watching the drummer Michael as he squeezed his tall frame to fit his drum kit and the low roof, I noted his sticks hitting the ceiling which only gave him another reason to broaden his smile. These guys seemed to be doing this for fun and a love of the material and the people who were packed in tight to watch them.
The band introduced Wonderful Day’ dedicating it to the recently departed Pete Shelley.
Magnets and Spring Collection came up next. A terrific set this was turning out to be. The fans lapping up every word from Edward and David between the songs. The vapors played through their back catalogue with gusto, but stopped to chat with the crowd.
The guitar riff sparked up, everyone just knew what was coming, I really think so! It came to life with the band’s sharp and spiky power pop guitar, Turning Japanese. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that the stunning rendition “Turning Japanese” had to have been the most anticipated moment of the show. The band delivered. Dave Fenton nailed the vocals on this 100% and his impressive guitar work alongside Edward. The packed in crowd had been waiting over an hour for it, and now they got it! We all sang along with much vigour. For those of us that know, and loved the song, when it was released in 1980, helped no doubt with the urban, legendary story behind it, it was a real highlight.
It’s clear that The Vapors, if tonights set is anything to go by, still have a lot to offer. America, News At Ten and Here Comes The Judge closed the 90 minute set. If you didn’t see the band live the first time around, I have to say its is a real treat to have that opportunity now. Well played The Vapors.
GUESTS: Department S
Department S were back in Lewes. They had nailed a great set with The Rezillos a couple of weeks before. These guys have become one of my “go see bands” of the year. They really are worth the ticket price, always charismatic and always seem to up the performance each time I have seen them.
Department S are a British post-punk/new wave band formed in 1980, they took their name from the 1960s TV series Department S. They are best known for their debut single, “Is Vic There?”, which was originally released in December 1980 and reached No. 22 on the UK Singles Chart the following year. A new Department S full-length album, When All Is Said and All Is Done, produced by Pete Jones, was released by Westworld Recordings in May 2016. In 2017, the band released the 45 Revolutions: Singles 1980 – 2017 compilation on Westworld.
The Band: In slides…
- Eddie Roxy vocals
- Pete Jones – bass, backing vocals
- Phil Thompson – guitar, backing vocals
- Alan Galaxy – drums
Department S looked as if they were enjoying this set as much as we were. They had a larger crowd this time around in Lewes, an enthusiastic bunch who danced and sang through their set. Department S, you get the feeling, are really achieving with this line up. This was the third meet up with these guys, they just seem to get better and better. Easily one of the best bands to see play live, they are on a roll with a selection of great material and a rock steady show – go see them if they play near you.
They pull you in for the duration of the set. And, like The Vapors had one real big hit, but the set is so strong showcasing their music around Is Vic There? Pete powers through the whole session with a smile and some serious heavy duty bass playing. The charismatic Eddie in his suit giving a brilliant performance. Phil providing the ear bursting guitars, riffs, moves and jumps. At the back Alan, the latest addition to the band, was keeping his gaze fixed firmly on the band members and keeping it all tight.
You have to shake off any preconceptions you may have and move on from their best known, and much loved song, “Is Vic There?” which I think nearly everyone knows. It is actually quite a “different” song now and blends in perfectly with the rest of the set, these guys set rocked it at the Lewes Con Club from the first chord. The band also gave mention to the untimely death of Pete Shelley. Included in the set was an absolutely barn storming version of the Thunders classic Born To Lose and another crowd pleaser Going Left Right. It all came to a close with When All Is Said and as Eddie left the stage Phil and Pete, brought the show to a close with their antics. A short but sweet outing from Department S. I enjoyed every second.
UPDATE: Shortly after this gig, sad to report that the mighty Pete Jones announced he was leaving Dept S. Sad news indeed, but he has his own projects etc that he wants to devote his time on. Just make sure you go see him before he leaves. Drop into his website to catch up and see what he is up to as he preps up the drop of a new album. Pete said ” if you want to come along to any Department S shows to say goodbye and weep uncontrollably on my shoulders, please do.”
Pete Jones is on the WWW.
A great night. Two top bands.
I just want to thank both bands for heading down South and the wonderful job done by the Blackstar Promotions team. Its not easy finding venues and it was great to see they managed to find a series of places and venues and to bring the music to the fans of both bands. They work hard to bring you superb music, and they work even harder to ensure you have a good night. They are passionate about music, and it shows.
You can find Blackstar Promotions on the WWW
Please note all original images / video are copyright, please do not copy. If any of the featured artists/promoters/venues want copies of the images – or more if available – please just get in touch.
All original pictures / video – copyright to IANB/MEDIA WORKS/ SCENE SUSSEX – Ian “The Lens” Bourn 2018.
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