Lords of the New Church – The Return, Vive Le Rock Awards 2023

Unexpected, unbelievable, unreal... but very, very welcome

Words and Pictures, Adrian Hextall / Mindhex Media 

The last time we saw the Vive Le Rockers, Vive Le Rock magazine’s ‘house’ band performing it was 2019. The Stranglers headlined, The Rich Kids reformed and played a few numbers, and awards were handed out to some true musical legends. 2020 should have seen the festivities, the special guests and more continuing. Posters were made, acts were lined up and all looked to be a dead cert until of course, the ‘thing’ happened and the world shut down for over 2 years. 

 

Some 3 years later however and with the venue upgraded from the O2 Academy in Islington to the bigger and better staged, O2 Empire in Shepherds Bush, the event was finally on. 

According to Vive Le Rock founder and event organiser Eugene Butcher, this was likely to be the last awards show. His own band Desperate Measures is taking up a lot of his time and well, to be fair, you can only handle so much and if this does indeed prove to be the award’s swan song then they definitely went out in style. 

Getting all of the people into the venue on the right day and the right time, I am sure, is like herding cats. Bands have been named as appearing, artists have been on the bill and removed again (sadly Arthur Brown, the god of hellfire himself, who was billed for the 2020 event was not present) but the end result was a wonderful mix of live music and well deserved awards handed out by and to luminaries for the world of punk, ska, alternative and more. 

 

Vive Le Rockers

The evening started in fine form with the always energised frontman from Urban Voodoo Machine,  Paul Ronney Angel, leading the Vive Le Rockers with a rousing rendition of Dick Dale & His Del-Tones ‘Misirlou’ which many of us will know of course from its inclusion in the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. We knew from that moment on that the music was going to be something special and it was. Special guests came and went as the Vive Le Rockers played classic after classic during both of their well received sets. Highlights included Kim & Jackie from Girlschool coming on for some Motorhead work as well as their classic St Valentines Day Massacre EP. We also got a cover of the Sex Pistols ‘God Save The Queen’ with Millie Manders on lead vocal in memory of John Lydon’s wife Nora who had passed away earlier in the day.

Even the event organiser, Mr Butcher, got in on the action, clearly loving being back in front of the microphone with Desperate Measures NZ once again. 

Vive Le Rockers – Setlist & Special Guests

Intro – Babylon’s Burning – Classical Version
Instrumental – Misirlou
Teenage Depression – Paul-Ronney Angel vocals
Emergency – Girlschool
Bomber – Girlschool w/Eugene
Please Don’t Touch – Girlschool with P-R A vocals
God Save The Queen – Millie Manders & Gaff guitar

SET 2
Pipeline – Instrumental
I Put A Spell on You – Jim Jones
High School Confidential – Jim Jones
IKO IKO – Jenne Bellestar
Sonic Boom Boy – Elisabeth Westwood
Lucille – Beki Bondage
Roxette – Norman Watt-Roy & Laurie Wright
Enjoy Yourself – Everyone !

When the awards  were underway, the true spirit of punk shone through with the first few presenters and recipients lost backstage in the green room, enjoying the (shall we say) ‘hospitality’ afforded to them by Eugene and Co. “Are they just getting pissed” called out Beki Bondage, our gorgeous host for the evening. Throughout much mirth and merriment as either giver or receiver went AWOL, the one factor that shone through was the camaraderie between everyone present. Did it matter? Did it affect the atmosphere for the evening? Not in the least. If anything it gave the organisers, the presenters and the crowd something to shout, laugh and joke about and really brought everyone together.

Carrying the torch in to the remainder of the 21st century (because with the best will in the world, half of the acts here won’t be playing in 15-20 years time) is Bob Vylan, the English duo based in London who play a style merging elements of grime, punk rock and hip hop. Their award receipt triggers roars of approval from the audience which suggests the genre is in good hands as Bobby and Bobbie take up the mantle of standard bearers along with another deserving act, Australia’s own Amyl and the Sniffers. Although the latter couldn’t appear in person, their label appeared on stage to collect their award and delivered a rousing “f**k yeah!” before heading off for some more of that green room hospitality. 

Awards & Winners

Festival – Rebellion Festival & R-Fest
Live Act – Amyl & The Sniffers
Roots – Neville Staple
Reissue of the Year – UK Subs & Edsel Records
New Blood – Bob Vylan

Part 2
Album of the Year – The Interrupters
Pioneer Award – Brian James
Services to Music – Norman Watt-Roy
Icon – Terry Hall
Lifetime Achievements – Cockney Rejects

With awards out of the way, the stage was then set for the first of 3 further live sets. 

Cockney Rejects

Getting the ball rolling were Londoner’s Cockney Rejects. They may have been around since 1978 but have lost none of their bite or attitude in the intervening years. A short snappy set followed and, as I sit here typing, I can’t help but keep muttering “Oi Oi” in my mind. Simple, effective, energetic, everything a punk band should be and Cockney Rejects reminded us of just that fact. 

Neville Staple Band

The original rude boi, Neville Staple was up next and in sharp contrast to the music from Cockney Rejects, delivered some glorious ska infused tunes, celebrating his time with The Specials and specifically the fact that he’s touring with his band celebrating ’40 Years of Ghost Town’. The current Neville Staple Band line-up consists of (assuming Wikipedia is accurate) Christine “Sugary” Staple on vocals, ex-Specials member Drew Stanshall on saxophone, ex-Bad Manners members Matty “Bingo” Bane on drums and Stephen “Sledge” Armstrong on bass as well as Billy Shinbone on guitar, Joe Atkinson on keyboards and Pete New on trombone.

Collectively the music was on the money, with everyone on stage having as much fun dancing to each song as the bouncing crowd in front of them. Anyone that knows Neville’s history in music will have appreciated the mixed set which included: 

Do the Dog (Rufus Thomas cover) / Nite Klub (The Specials song) / Monkey Man (Toots & The Maytals cover) / A Message to You, Rudy (Dandy Livingstone cover) / Gangsters (The Specials song) / Concrete Jungle (The Specials song) / Ghost Town (The Specials song) / Longshot Kick De Bucket (The Pioneers cover)

If you want to see what he and his band are up to these days, check out recent single ‘Celebrate With You’. 

Lords of The New Church (feat: Michael Monroe) 

And so, to the headline act of the night. Formed in 1981, and consisting of notable musicians from the 70s punk scene, Stiv Bators (ex-the Dead Boys), guitarist Brian James (ex-the Damned), bassist Dave Tregunna (ex-Sham 69) and drummer Nick Turner (ex-the Barracudas), the band enjoyed reasonable success in the mid 1980s with songs like  ‘New Church’, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Dance with Me, and a cover of Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’. 

Stiv died in 1990 in Paris after being hit by a car so the likelihood of this reunion happening seemed a distant hope. However, long time friend of Stiv’s, Michael Monroe, agreed to the request and quite honestly, I don’t know who else could have done the role justice. Monroe oozes rock ‘n’ roll chic, his time with Hanoi Rocks cementing his place in genre history. Bassist Dave Tregunna is back once more,  as is Brian James (the man Rat Scabies describes as the one that taught him everything he knew about punk music) on guitar. Drumming for the evening is Terry Chimes and original Lord’s keyboard player Mark Taylor. 

The rehearsals have clearly been worthwhile as the band seemed tight from the off. Opening with ‘New Church’, to the delight of the pogoing crowd, the years melted away and all of a sudden it was the sound of the 80s all over again. Mixing punk and New Wave music, the Lords powered through a short set of fan favourites. 

With a pause to introduce original Damned drummer Rat Scabies who paid the greatest of tributes to Brian James before telling Terry Chimes to (in the politest of fashions) “F**k Off Terry” to allow him to take to the drum kit so that the band could run through the classic that broke The Damned in the UK, ‘New Rose’. 

And then… as quickly as it had commenced, it was all over…. or was it? “Do you want some more?” came the shout from the stage…. Well, this is England mate and by god it’s hard work to get a crowd to go mad for an encore especially when the audience is mostly the wrong side of 40 years old. However a few tuts and muttered “yeahs” later, and with a further nudge from the stage, when the crowd finally found their voice and demanded more, the band came back on stage. 

With Terry back behind the drum kit (having probably politely told Rat where to go as well) the band closed off the 2023 Awards show with Bo Diddley’s ‘Pills’. 

If, as Eugene says, this is the end of the awards for future years then what a way to go out. Having the balls to pull together a set from Lords of the New Church with one of Stiv’s closest friends front and centre was nothing short of miraculous. That they sounded so good just goes to show the level of talent on stage and when it was combined with sets from Neville Staple, Cockney Rejects and the brilliant Vive Le Rockers, it’s not surprising everyone went home happy. 

Top work all round (as expected tbh). 

SETLIST:

New Church
Livin’ on Livin’
Dance With Me
Russian Roulette
Method to My Madness
New Rose (The Damned cover) (with Rat Scabies)
Encore:
Pills (Bo Diddley cover)

To see our coverage of the 2019 evening, click on the link below: 

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