Saturday, 16 July 2016

Live Suicide

I've been contemplating Suicide these past few days, re-visiting the first two albums, and the real job of work, the mammoth 2008 boxset Live 1977-1978 which features 13 complete live shows spread across 6 discs. A bruising year in the life of Suicide, the concerts, taped in NYC and various cities across Europe (supporting Elvis Costello and The Clash), include 23 Minutes Over Brussels, the iconic show which ended in complete disarray - after 23 minutes - when one audience member grabbed the microphone from Alan Vega while the crowd chanted Elvis! Elvis! Elvis! The Brussels concert is the only performance that ends with an ambush but the mood is confrontational throughout these sets, with much of the hostility frequently directed at the audience. "C'mon, I'll kill you, you fuck" screams Vega at some pissed up punks demanding three chord thrash at a show in Paris. At a show in Germany, he calls the crowd "a good bunch of Nazis". What's most revelatory about this collection though is the music which is tremendous despite the abysmal lo-fi sound quality. Suicide played the same set on most nights but no song was ever performed quite the same way, and there are thrilling renditions of Frankie Teardrop and astonishing throat-shredding Harlem's. Incidentally, at these shows Vega frequently introduces Suicide's cover of 96 Tears with a certain offensive racial slur, which been bleeped out for the boxset, at the request of Vega himself, according to the accompanying liner notes.

Blast First have lavish considerable love on these recordings, with the six CDs housed in a sturdy clamshell box and accompanied by an excellent 40 page booklet containing liner notes and all sorts of ephemera, including a reproduction of the group’s memorable cover appearance on a 1978 issue of Time Out magazine…

Incidentally, I was reading issue 156 of The Wire (February 1997) recently, and chanced upon a review of an Alan Vega album, and in the piece, Edwin Pouncey recalled seeing Vega (or perhaps Suicide, it's not clear) supporting the horrible Pop Will Eat Itself, and Vega getting pelted by a hostile crowd - so hostile in fact that, one audience member broke a window in a toilet and hurled a large piece of glass at Vega who carried on the set unfazed. I've tried to corroborate this account by the usually reliable Pouncey but so far I haven't come across any evidence that Vega or Suicide crossed paths with the Pop Will Eat Itself non-entities...

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