Category Archives: gigs

TV Smith: Chomsky meets Cohen, but punk

Crikey I needed that. After Thursday’s shitshow (albeit revealed in the company of friends, which momentarily softened the blow), what happened last night was just perfect.

Given that TV Smith is a guy with a 40 year back catalogue of brilliant – perceptive, funny, lyrically astonishing – songs, and with a work ethic that would shame someone a third of his age, this was unsurprising. But still, much much appreciated.

Image result for tv smith
nicked from wikipedia

Smith has been at this game since punk screamed onot the stage in 1977.  He’s kept the faith – a DIY ethos, biting observations on how the rich get richer, the poor stay poor (and it’s expensive being poor).  I’ve seen him a bunch of times over the last 15 years, always at small venues (in a sane world a) he would be playing enormous stadiums and b) he wouldn’t, because a sane world would provide little material for his clarity, his cynicism, his stubborn but realistic optimism).  There’s never less than 100% engagement with his material, his audience.  There’s old crowd pleasers (most of the audience tends to remember the early days well), some new stuff and lots in betweens.  Last night I asked for (and got) both March of the Giants

and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay.

If you’re not familiar with his work, you’re missing out (seriously).  He next plays Manchester on Friday 27 March 2020.  See you there I hope.

PS There’s a third C – (Barry) Commoner, the American ecological thinker. Smith has several songs which speak to the ecological crimes of our species (and especially capitalism/industrialisation).

Chomsky with a guitar – aka TV Smith #punknotdead

Punk isn’t dead, and won’t be while TV Smith can draw breath and hold a plectrum.  Going on tonight’s performance, that will be a good 25 years yet.  Smith, who was there as a proper punk in the 70s, has the energy of a gobby gobbing 20 year old, but the skills and cynicism of a man who has seen it all – Thatcher, Blair, Bush, Iraq – more than once.

Early on in his blistering set at the Dulcimer in Chorlton, he sang his classic “Not in My Name” from the album Misinformation Overload.

While I have always loved these mournful lines –

All my heroes died
While they were still alive
Confused or compromised
Their values undermined
They were led down to the hole
Where the blood and money flows

The next verse, sung in the way it was written – with passion and precision-

Bad guys come first
The third world thirsts,
Starves or dies of AIDS
In the modern day crusades
The wild west will win
Defeat the Indians
Drive the devils to the door
With the homeless and the poor
And when there’s nothing left to bomb
No-one left to beat
They’ll train their crosswires on
The unseen enemy
The ever-present threat
That hasn’t happened yet
And probably never will
Still they move in for the kill
But the night sights won’t show
If you’re friend or foe
Are you so much better than
The junkies and Saddam?
Are you guaranteed a place
When they build the master race?
Will the world then be pure?
We’ve heard that one before
In history’s deepest holes
Where the blood and money flowed…

brought me up short.  We have been here before, or we never actually left;  Even before the Great Crash of 2008, there was, of course, a war on the homeless and the poor.  Smith saw it then, sees it now.  For  almost forty years he’s been seeing it, and singing it like he sees it.  Tonight he played a beautiful random mix of old and new (including, at my request, Atlantic Tunnel), songs from his latest album “I Delete”, and some he’s not yet recorded.

Smith is doing something important. He’s entertaining, but reminding us that we are here but for a very short time, and that morals and friends, and the great refusal of punk – refusal to abide by authority that cannot actually justify itself – is what makes us, mostly, human.

If you get the chance, see him perform, I do not see how you can be disappointed.