Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt
LUST, POWER AND MONEY
Twenty odd years ago there was a venue in Middlesbrough that played host to every punk and heavy metal band worth its salt. The Rock Garden in Newport Road was a haven for the dedicated music fanatic. So when I noticed a leaflet advertising a forthcoming 999 concert fly posted on a dual carriageway exit I thought my eyes were deceivng me but no, when I drove past the next night I slowed right down. The legendary 999 were playing in Middlesbrough! After 13 years since the last one at the old Teesside Polytechnic during the 'Face to Face' Tour.
To those in the know the band were nothing more than a bunch of johnny-come-latelys jumping on the punk bandwagon and singer Nick Cash (AKA Keith Lucas) had a history. He had been one of Ian Drury's cohorts in Kilburn & The High Roads. Big deal, eh? Perhaps they just didn't know the right people at the time. Derided as being nothing more than a pub rock band like The Vibrators they have endured and stood the test of time as good as any of the more hipper punk acts of the same era.
999 were always a great live band and the early singles are logged in the memory for evermore. 'Homicide' still sounds as good now as it did back then. The Cash/Days writing combination always had a knack of writing a good tune, even when the band strayed off known territory with 1984's '13th Floor Madness' release.
Any fan of the band will tell you that they are at their best when they marry energy, melody and Cash's unique vocal style.
Forever the showman and with three original members to boot plus Arturo from The Lurkers and Pinpoint on bass, this was very much a gig to look forward too. I wasn't to be disappointed as I saw people I hadn't seen for two decades; a chance to meet old friends, the old Rock Garden crowd were out in force, between 4/500 on the night. Quite incredible but maybe not so as 999 were always popular in Middlesbrough (along with the UK Subs, Adam and the Ants and a few others besides) and it had been 13 years too long since the last appearance in town.
After the local support acts had finished on strode 999. Straight into 'Black Flowers For The Bride' from 1993's marvellous return to form 'You Us It'. A lot of the crowd went straight to the front and from that moment on you just knew the gig was going to be a cracker, and we weren't let down on that score as the band plundered their back catalogue as the audience lapped it all up. Yes, 'Emergency', 'Homocide', 'I'm Alive', 'Nasty Nasty' and 'Boys In The Gang' sounded as fresh today as they did back then. There couldn't have been a better moment when the familiar intro to 'Feeling Alright WIth The Crew' rang out and both band and audience were at one. It came again on 'English Wipeout', a song the band mention Middlesbrough Rock Garden on. Cash, ever the showman; Guy Days having a ball at the audience reaction and not forgetting the 'engine room' of Arturo and Pablo Labritain (Paul Buck).
There was only one thing though as my mate 'Robbo' pointed out. It was a bit too polite for his liking. For a start no-one was spitting and there were no bouncers being randomly violent. Thank god some things have changed for the better.