LIGHTYEAR ARE BACK! Ever since May when the legendary UK punk band announced they were getting back together, not just for a reunion tour but to be a proper band again, I've been overcome with excitement. I'm a massive Lightyear fan and have been yearning for them to get together again since they got together for some shows at Slam Dunk 2015. When they announced the London show at The Garage I bought our tickets immediately and counted the days excitedly for what I was assuming would be one of the best gigs of the year. To give you an example of just how excited I was to see Lightyear again - I was more excited to see Lightyear than I was to see the Descendents for the first time earlier in the year. I was really really excited.
Before we got to Lightyear though we had three support acts to work our way through. First up were London's Eat The Evidence. Being a show in London on a Saturday, there was an unfortunate early start to the show which meant the crowd wasn't as big as it could have been for the five piece. But this didn't stop an excitable and energetic show from these ska punks. The majority of the crowd that had gathered seemed to really enjoy their sound. Something a bit different about Eat The Evidence is that they use an accordion on some of their songs, you don't see too many ska bands who do that - off the top of my head I can only think of the one. Eat The Evidence were so excited to be playing with Lightyear, they actually bought tickets for the show before they got booked on it. The highlights of their set for me were a song about the British Isles named Fruit Of The Loot which included a ukulele with a homemade-looking whistle attachment (DIY or die!), a longer song about old bands you were in named Delusions Of A Grunger and final song Tories Go To Waitrose. This was a fun way to start the show.
Next to take to the Garage stage were a band named Unqualified Nurse Band who were from Derby. Having never even heard to this three piece before I was interested to see what they would be like. Unqualified Nurse Band played a kind of alternative punk rock music that felt kind of odd to be on this bill. I imagine that happens a lot to them because it was very difficult to pigeon hole them into any particular genre. Whatever the genre might have been, one thing I was sure of that this was a very talented band. With all three members of the band taking turns on lead vocals and the bass player and the guitarist swapping instruments at times, it was clear that these guys knew what they were doing and were definitely one of the more professional bands I've ever seen. I'm not used to seeing bands with such a musical proficiency! I did think it was a bit of a shame that the drummer was so difficult to see on stage because of the lights and smokiness of the room. You didn't really notice it was him singing until you saw that it wasn't either of the guitar players. He had a cracking voice.
Coming on stage after a recorded introduction stating that they'd had no hits and Ice T had once said they were "okay", the infamous seven piece from the golden age of UK punk took to the stage with Data's Double Chin. Iin true Lightyear fashion, Neil managed to break his trumpet within the first thirty seconds of the song and a piece of it when flying into the front of the crowd. Luckily the start of the song doesn't feature too much brass. From there on the Lightyear classics just kept on coming and coming. Lightyear are the kind of band where you sometimes forget just how many songs of theirs there are that you love until you get to see them all live. As much as I enjoy recorded Lightyear the band are truly at their best, and arguably better than anyone, when you get to experience them live. It wasn't long into their set when my all time favourite Lightyear song got a run out. Three Basics is a song about the importance of music in society and is just incredible live. There are so many incredible lyrics in this song that have me shouting back at the band with my fists held high. Everyone else's favourite Lightyear song, A Pack Of Dogs, didn't take long to follow. Taking everyone by surprise by its appearance in the middle of the set as it's usually the closing song. The stage began to fill with brass players from various bands, allegedly it was organised a few minutes before the set began but I'm not so sure - I don't think The Garage stocks so many brass instruments back stage. A Pack Of Dogs, of course, got the biggest reaction of the night with the floor becoming a huge skank pit singing along gleefully to Lightyear's love letter to the 1980s. After hearing my two favourite tracks it was now a bit of "what are they going to play next?" Classics including Twat Out Of Hell, Life Jacket Water Wings, Tread Lightly, Speaking Clearly, Nuff Cuts, Uri Gellar Bent My Heart, Whispering Ron vs Maz and Blindside all went down wonderfully with the crowd. Of course the morris dancing interlude during Blindside, as well as the pantomime horse, got huge cheers from everyone at the Garage. The old jokes remain the best. The main part of the set finished with Positive Outlook, another of my absolute favourites. It's a song about friendships that last forever so it was an apt choice given that one Lightyear are celebrating their 20th anniversary and two because they've been seeing so many old friends on this tour. During this song there was a bit of a switch up on the stage with the guitarist taking over drumming duty, the drummer taking lead vocal duties, Chas swapping places with the soundman who took to the stage to sing with the band. Fire Apple Red's bass player took over Bars' job so he could get to the front of the stage and do some singing himself. It was all a bunch of fun nonsense shenanigans that you would expect from Lightyear. If this main part of the show wasn't quite enough there was an encore which included one of the band's oldest songs Spot Check and lastly That's The Way It Goes, Big Nose which someone on the barrier had been shouting for most of the evening.
Oh and they also played a new song during their set. I'm so excited for some new material.
Lightyear were so so so so good. It's been a long time since I came out of a gig feeling such a high. For the whole journey home I was smiling like a lunatic and humming or whistling their songs. The fact that the band are back properly is the best piece of musical news we've had for years. You might worry that an older band coming back for more than just a reunion might tarnish their legendary reputation. That won't be further from the truth for Lightyear. I can't wait to see what they do next!
This gig review was written by Colin Clark. Photos taken by Emma Prew.