In a suburb better known for decaying student houses and shootings of those trying to uphold the law, lies the Marcus Garvey Ballroom, a 1000-capacity music venue hidden behind a council building. It’s not often gigs in Nottingham are held outside the city centre in Lenton, but on a dreary Saturday evening, Liverpool’s ska punk fetishists took to the primary school assembly hall like room as their debut album promotion campaign continued.
It’s fair to say that mainstream success is something that has eluded this quartet thus far, in spite of incessant touring and a very competent debut album. And this is something surely accentuated by their highly comparable peers Hard-Fi and The Ordinary Boys, who have milked the public’s appetite for all things ska and 21st Century, tell-it-how-it-is lyrics in rock songs, the latter of course revived in no small part by a certain reality TV programme.
But to dismiss The Dead 60s as pretenders in a hugely saturated market would be a massive mistake – their short and incredibly sharp, energy packed slabs of Specials/Clash/Jam influenced punk are quite often exhilarating, and in a set that lasted for just under an hour, they also displayed that they’re a damn fine, tight-as-a-bolt live act.
Appearing on stage to the sound of sirens, they cast aside any “Hello, we’re The Dead 60s” kind of natter and burst directly into a bustling and thrilling rendition of early single Loaded Gun. The guitar riffing was simply furious and front man Matt McManamon sang with a visible show of passion and conviction as he delivered the chorus. As this segued into the 90-second head rush of A Different Age, it was quite clear that they were giving it their all, which is always refreshing to see.
The rest of the set passed at a breakneck pace, with little respite. Occasional hellos and thanks yous were the most we got out of McManamon and his cohorts – this is band who are clearly happy to let their songs do the talking, and fortunately for them, they manage to get away with it almost all of the time. Not all their material is top notch, for sure – some songs do search in vain for that crowd pleasing hook, but when they hit the right notes, it’s very hard to find fault.
Indeed, songs like the slower, more considered Red Light and We Get Low were played out with real enthusiasm and were received well, whilst their calling card and best song, the adrenaline fuelled Riot Radio, more than lived up to its name – bursting through the PA like a vicious creature awakening from a deep sleep, it was a truly exciting moment.
They encored with The Last Resort and Ghostfaced Killer, two particular numbers that remind much of The Specials’ more seminal moments. But The Dead 60s, while being derivative and seemingly a tad obsessed with the late 70s/early 80s (the 60s are dead here, certainly), are able to stamp their own identity on their songs and when they’re performed with such intent, as shown tonight, this can easily be overlooked. They deserve to be much, much bigger than they are.