Academy Islington, London
26 August 2017
The first time the Revolting Cocks played in London, it was a debauched, riotous affair. Led by “Uncle” Al Jourgensen, the electro-industrial supergroup hoovered up enormous quantities of pharmaceuticals ahead of the show. They appeared with drugged-up strippers, who danced precariously and mimed sex acts with band members. The audience was whipped into a frenzy by the band’s taught, funky grooves and the chaos unfurling before them. The front of the stage was the wrong place to be for anyone who wore glasses.
That was 1991. Fast forward to the present day.
It has been just over thirty years since the release of Big Sexy Land, RevCo’s first album, and they are touring it as a live show. Richard 23, the European Commission worker and Front 242 member, is handling vocal duties. When he’s done, Chris Connelly, the record store manager and Fini Tribe founder, takes over to run through the second RevCo studio album, Beers, Steers and Queers. Paul Barker, the man whose fingers give RevCo its bass-level drive, is there to move hips throughout.
The audience gathered in London is filled with people who look like they were there for the first show and have been dreaming of doing it again. Their livers have taken a pounding in the intervening decades, but they haven’t given up on the rituals of substance abuse or spitting into other people’s drinks at the bar. Ladies of a certain age in dark make up and tattered clothes barge through the crowd, just to make their presence known.
These are the only people who are going to be disappointed by RevCo’s show. Uncle Al isn’t part of this tour, which means there are no strippers, water guns, dry re-enactments of classic porn scenes, or mad crushes at the front of the stage. The degenerates who have descended on Upper Street don’t get their riot. They can still gob at the bar, with a twinkle in their eye, but in the room they are going to have to make way for those who came for the music. A Swedish fan walks past in a white suit – the mirror image of the creatures who crawled in from the pub around the corner.
Album performances are rarely good ideas, because most albums are short on quality material. That isn’t the case with RevCo. Written by talents from the industrial and electronic music scenes, who were locked up with samplers and 1970s movies, every track on Big Sexy Land is solid entertainment. Rhythms were carefully worked out, rather than being slapped down as 4/4 bass kicks. Bass lines were introduced that corrupted funk’s stylings. Vocals were subverted with sampled quotes. Live, the material works as well as it did in the studio.
Richard 23 puts on a fine show, but things stumble a little when Chris Connelly takes his turn at the microphone. His voice is strained, and he struggles to hit the notes he is searching for in “Stainless Steel Providers” with his usual power. He quickly recalibrates to shout his lines, and suddenly it sounds like John Lydon has joined the act. He doesn’t start pitching dairy products, but the atmosphere is certainly more crumpets than chaos.