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O2 Academy, London
AFTER years of varied and disputatious line-ups, these days the real Sham 69 appear in more or less their classical form, with Dave Parsons on guitar, Dave Tregunna on bass, Robin Guy on drums and, of course, Jimmy Pursey on vocals.
Pursey, in his mid-sixties and looking more like a vexatious hound dog than ever, retains the fervent charisma that has long made him one of punk’s most exciting frontmen, while Parsons, fit, lean and sharp, still commands attention by his side.
With the flamboyant Guy assaulting the drums and Tregunna intense beneath his baseball cap, Sham serve up a ferocious set that’s surprisingly refreshing even though it’s based around songs that first saw the light of day more than 40 years ago.
In front of a full house, they power through anthems such as Hurry Up Harry, Borstal Breakout, Angels with Dirty Faces and Hersham Boys with such energy that any pre-gig worries about this being a moribund nostalgia-fest are quickly dispelled.
Pursey’s intros rarely run to more than a few words — “London, punk, the Clash,” he says before launching into White Riot — and the nearest we get to anything conversational is a brief remembrance of the recently deceased Thomas “Mensi” Mensforth, lead singer of the Angelic Upstarts, who was taken under Sham’s wing in the early days of his career.
Often, however, more is less, and Pursey’s fierce eyeball to eyeball engagement with the crowd says more than a thousand words.
The material stands on its own and there’s no need to embellish it with storytelling or long introductions.
Everyone in the crowd — young or old — knows what to expect, and it’s delivered.
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