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The Boomtown Rats' New DVD Release
Live At The Hammersmith Odeon 1978
By Ray Van Horn Jr
(more articles from this author)
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Artist: The Boomtown Rats
Title: Live at Hammersmith Odeon 1978
Format: DVD
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Download: “I Don’t Like Mondays”
I Don't Like Mondays

At the opening of this DVD, when you see a British fan stumblebum trying to gauge what The Boomtown Rats were about, he’s unconsciously right when he says the Rats were “new wave rock, really,” and even better, “just sort of brilliant music.” Let’s face it; when you think of the roots of punk rock you think of The Ramones, The Clash and Blondie by default. When you think of early new wave you think of Talking Heads, Elvis Costello or The Jam. Not exactly forgotten but seldom mentioned in punk and new wave circles, The Boomtown Rats were right there along with The Clash, The Stranglers and The Sex Pistols.

The Boomtown Rats were a shade behind The Clash’s brilliancy yet they were also what The Sex Pistols could’ve been if they’d opted for a deeper song structure instead of mere shock value. Live at Hammersmith Odeon 1978 is a fresher course to those who may be seeing the name Boomtown Rats or Bob Geldof for the first time. It is also a refresher course in the early days of punk before the American and London scenes teemed with hardcore acts that forever changed the genre.

When you think of Bob Geldof, you more than likely think of him as architect of the historical Live Aid benefit concert of 1985 as well as the ringleader of Band Aid and its all-star charity single, “Do They Know its Christmas?” Still others might recall that Geldof stars in the movie version of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” When you think of The Boomtown Rats, probably 7 out of 10 of you automatically think of their hit anthem “I Don’t Like Mondays.” While that song has become a thirtysomething working class endearment, there’s far more to The Boomtown Rats than that. On Live at Hammersmith Odeon 1978, you will be witness to the rowdiness of this Irish posse’s earlier years, a concert that captures the frantic punk energy of this band from one of two gigs in London they played that year.

While Bob Geldof is more lately associated with a sanitized solo career and his behind-the-scenes doings in the music industry, the energetic mania of Geldof as crazed and controversial frontman of The Boomtown Rats will undoubtedly surprise you if it’s your first trip. “Blind Date” opens the concert as a wild-eyed Geldof loudly screams and prances about the stage like Mick Jagger and Johnny Rotten in one fell swoop. The Rats’ vigorous music bulges as much as of Geldof’s pants as he sarcastically groans, “I wanna be a rocker movie soccer star” on “Kicks” or snarls, “Tonight of all nights there’s going to be a fight” from “Rat Trap.”

When you hear Geldof shiftily swoon, “She ain’t no lady, she’s a stupid cow” from “She’s Gonna Do You In,” you can feel the cheekiness as much as hear or see it, particularly when Geldof breaks the action to take a photo of the crowd for his father as proof that the Rats could play to a big crowd. Even crazier is how Geldof tells his audience that he’s seen a lot of posers on tour, but, in his own words, “the posiest city is London!”

Surrounding Geldof are Gerry Cott on guitar and Pete Briquette on bass, both of whom swirl like ions around his swelling nucleus, keeping the energy level at a high bar, while the pajama-clad Johnnie Fingers attacks his keyboards with determined focus. When they launch into the driving and thought-provoking “Don’t Believe What You Read” and their classic “Looking After No. 1,” you can suddenly sense their place in punk history like it’s a new dawning. Even better, the crowd-engaging “She’s So Modern” is full of three-chord “oi” bliss, even before such a term ever came into fashion.

You might laugh at Geldof’s propensity to appear stoned, perplexed or simply into the moment, or you might find The Rat Dance silly and pretentious, especially in today’s society which is slowly disassociating itself from The Macarena. Regardless, The Boomtown Rats stake their claim in punk’s legacy. The Boomtown Rats lurked with their subterranean peers beneath disco, power rock and Kiss. As I was 8 years old when this concert was performed, I find it astounding such vibrant music was breathing in an underground I was sheltered from. Now it all comes full circle. Live at Hammersmith Odeon 1978 is a piece of history for serious punk and new wave aficionados.

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