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GUILFEST (The Damned, The Stranglers,Blondie)
16 July 2004
Nobody had less than a great time at this summer’s Guilfest. Every year, it
proves its growing attraction by drawing in yet more punters and superb
headline acts. On the Friday we were treated to an 80s punk revival. First
up were The Damned. Out of the shadows appeared cohorts of ageing ‘Damned’
faithfuls, donning the black T-shirt uniforms of their heroes over midriffs
that admittedly have seen leaner days. Captain Sensible in his fur coat and
S&M trousers proved he still has something to offer, combining well with a
flamboyant Dave Vanian, dressed in a surgeon’s gown and black leather
gloves. Their brash humour and enduring enthusiasm ensured the crowd
remained entertained. But this was just a taste of what was in store.
Local boys The Stranglers, fronted by Hugh Cornwell’s replacement, Paul Roberts,
returned to their home town for the third year in a row. A quite enthralling
Roberts was boosted by a chiseled six-pack that sent elements of the crowd’s
female contingent into a frenzy. His strutting and posturing more than made
up for a clean sound, lacking the power and abrasiveness of the band in its
prime. But Dave Greenfield’s hypnotic Doors-tinged keyboards added a dreamy
dimension to classic hits like ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘Golden Brown’, giving
us a sound more suited to an audience comprising as many young children as
dirt-bag teenagers and ageing rockers.
Soon, the thronging crowd became a heaving mass in anticipation of the finale to come. At 9:45 it was time for
Blondie. An unsure entrance by the band soon gave way to a Debbie Harry
looking and sounding like a singer half her age. Her elegance and poise were
matched by the cohesive unit behind her, while hoards of young fans singing
along to classics like ‘Call Me’, ‘Atomic’ and ‘Heart of Glass’ showed the
band’s enduring appeal. Someone next to me had seen them at Glastonbury but
said this performance was even better.
As much as I like Blondie, though, it was The Stranglers that were the highlight for me. Even without the driving
guitars and percussion that gave them their punky appeal in the 80s, it’s
clear they love coming home and playing to an appreciative crowd that keeps
coming back for more.
Guilfest, 17 July 2004