Reviews

Review: The Undertones outstanding homecoming gig in Derry!

Special guests Neville Staple Band, The Outcasts and DJ Terri Hooley joined the Derry boys for a world-class show

Beginning a run of 5 sold out Irish tour dates The Undertones opened on 24th November 2023, in their home city of Derry, to an enthusiastic international audience. Punktuation’s Ruth Rae was there, ticking a long-awaited gig off her bucket list!

The history of The Undertones is very much tied up with that of Derry. A city I’ve long wished to visit, it was everything it promised to be and more! Walking around on the 17th Century city walls which encircle the old town, I was awed by the inspirational and stirring mural of the band, comissioned by local men Greg McCartney and Kevin Casey. It’s painted on the side of their premises, McCartney and Casey Solicitors and Notary Public, where Castle Street meets Magazine Street.

Undertones Mural, Derry Nov 2023
The Undertones mural, Derry, Nov 2023. Billy Doherty, Damian O'Neill and Mickey Bradley of The Undertones with Campino and Andi from Die Toten Hosen - photo by The Undertones

Replete with the city’s wonderful sights, sounds and an obligatory pint of Guinness, I headed to  the considerably newer Millennium Forum. This is a well designed, comfortable venue with a mixture of seating and standing. The sloping floor provided everyone with an excellent view, the stage was just the right height to avoid spectator neck-ache, and up front we were amiably close to the bands, which always makes for lively interractions!

Perhaps it was the early start on a Friday evening, but the crowd was sparse when first support band The Outcasts took to the stage. Singer and bassist Greg Cowan unleashed his ire in good Belfast style! Fortunately by their third number, more of the audience had drifted in from Derry’s excellent pubs, and The Outcasts powered through a high octane set of their Punk classics.

Greg Cowan - The Outcasts © Ruth Rae
Martin Cowan - The Outcasts
Martin Cowan - The Outcasts © Ruth Rae
JP Isotope - The Outcasts © Ruth Rae
Thomas Murdock - The Outcasts © Ruth Rae

Just Another Teenage Rebel‘, ‘Self Conscious Over You‘ and ‘The Cops Are Coming‘ sounded as fresh and angry as if it were still 1979.. Set closer ‘You’re A Disease‘ was dedicated to my pal Alastair, a long term Punk follower!

Spinning the records before and after each band was the legendary Terri Hooley, former owner of Good Vibrations record shop and label in Belfast. Terri had the foresight to sign both The Outcasts and The Undertones to his label, first releasing ‘Teenage Kicks‘ which catapulted The Undertones into public consciousness with massive support from Radio 1‘s John Peel. Terri’s handpicked tracks went down a storm with the crowd, many happily singing and bopping along.

Terri Hooley
Terri Hooley - Derry, Nov 2023 - photo by Ruth Rae

Second support was the equally legendary Neville Staple and his band, playing a selection of The Specials and Fun Boy Three hits, plus several popular Ska songs. Neville and his wife Christine ‘Sugary’ Staple front a very talented group of musicians who bring a fresh audience and a new lease of life to Specials songs such as ‘Nite Klub‘, ‘Concrete Jungle‘ and ‘Ghost Town‘. Ska’d up versions of ‘Really Saying Something‘ and ‘The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum‘ were dedicated to Neville’s late Fun Boy Three bandmate Terry Hall, and very much appreciated by the crowd!

Neville Staple - Derry 2023
Neville Staple - Derry 2023 © Ruth Rae
Sugary Staple - Derry 2023
Sugary Staple - Derry 2023 © Ruth Rae

I’ve seen Neville and his band many times, and they get better and better – always demonstrating a huge amount of joy and fun on stage – and it’s infectious! Billy Shinbone‘s excellent guitar licks were complemented by Stephen “Sledge” Armstrong‘s awesome bass riffs, as the two frequently swapped sides so that we all got to see their work.

The brass section of Drew Stanshall on saxophone and Pete New on trombone were exceptional – adding just the right touch to each song. A lively keyboard player is essential to any good Ska band, and Joe Atkinson seemed to wish he could run around on stage as much as his bandmates, untethered by their instruments! Sugary pleased the crowd by throwing signed posters to lucky catchers, and a Rude Girl vest to my friend and gig-buddy Wanda!

Billy Shinbone - Derry 2023
Billy Shinbone - Derry 2023 © Ruth Rae
Matty "Bingo" Bane - Derry 2023 © Ruth Rae

By the time The Undertones took to the stage, the venue was packed with excited fans! One of the best live bands on the Punk circuit, they never disappoint. Much-loved across the globe, fans had travelled from far and wide to be there, including members of top German rock band Die Toten Hosen. Family and many friends were also present, including singer Paul McLoone‘s sister Ann Marie, who got a shout-out from her brother much to her embarassment!

Paul McLoone - The Undertones
Paul McLoone - The Undertones - Derry 2023 © Ruth Rae

A set of Undertones favourites ensued, plus a few lesser-played songs, all of which were warmly welcomed. ‘Teenage Kicks‘ appeared early on, but the band have a huge back catalogue of songs to draw from, so it needn’t be a set closer.

Drew Pete Damian The Undertones Derry 2023
Drew and Pete (Neville Staple Band) with Damian (The Undertones) - Derry 2023 © Ruth Rae

Neville Staple’s brass section Drew and Pete made guest appearances for ‘It’s Going to Happen‘, once again adding perfect highlights to a fan favourite. An exuberant but friendly mosh pit arose front middle of the crowd, as it’s impossible to stand still to The Undertones rousing songs! I had a massive grin on my face throughout, absolutely rapturous as I kept saying to myself “I’m watching The Undertones in Derry!“. I wasn’t the only one..

Billy Doherty - The Undertones © Ruth Rae
John O'Neill - The Undertones
John O'Neill - The Undertones © Ruth Rae
Mickey Bradley - The Undertones © Ruth Rae
Damian O'Neill - The Undertones
Damian O'Neill - The Undertones © Ruth Rae

Twenty-five fast-paced songs later, and the guys went off to catch their breath. A storm of cheers and applause saw their return, where we were treated to an additional song during the planned 4 song encore. ‘Mars Bar‘ was added as somebody requested it – by throwing a chocolate bar onto the stage! Mickey was happy to bite into the gift, and the crowd were ecstatic to hear a favourite! The band also played one of my favourites ‘Jump Boys‘ which of course had the fans jumping along.

The Undertones were evidently genuinely delighted to play for their home crowd – what a phenomenal way to celebrate 45 years since their first hit single ‘Teenage Kicks‘, back where it all began! 

Main Photo Credit: VINNY CUNNINGHAM

  1. Emergency Cases
  2. You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It!)
  3. Family Entertainment
  4. The Love Parade
  5. Jimmy Jimmy
  6. Tearproof
  7. Thrill Me
  8. It’s Going to Happen
  9. Crisis of Mine
  10. Teenage Kicks
  11. True Confessions
  12. Smarter Than You
  13. Dig Yourself Deep
  14. Nine Times out of Ten
  15. I Gotta Getta
  16. Girls That Don’t Talk
  17. Male Model
  18. Here Comes the Rain
  19. Here Comes the Summer
  20. When Saturday Comes
  21. Girls Don’t Like It
  22. (She’s a) Runaround
  23. Wednesday Week
  24. Listening In
  25. Get Over You


Encore:

  1. Hypnotised
  2. I Know a Girl
  3. Jump Boys
  4. Mars Bars
  5. My Perfect Cousin
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