Live review: Pere Ubu

Slimline alt.rock titan in ‘made-up’ songs shocker.

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“My body is broken but my mind is sharp as forever,” says David Thomas, the sole remaining member of the original Pere Ubu line-up.

He’s lost a dramatic amount of weight in recent years and walks with a stick. And yet, as he ambles on stage at the curious hour of four in the afternoon he looks great, wearing a black hat and coat, like he’s just stepped out of a 1970s East European cartoon.

Today, Ubu’s line-up includes ex-Nico collaborator Graham Dowdall on electronics and Pale Boy Keith Moliné on guitar as well as clarinet, Theremin and percussion. The first half of the show is what he refuses to term an “improvisation”, in which he “makes up songs”, with the group expertly and topographically reflecting the halting, physical and mental anguish of Thomas’s wailing protagonist, whose lonely peregrinations across the ever-evolving Ubu soundscape remain a constant. The second half of the show draws on Ubu past and present, from 1982’s The Long Walk Home to Bus Station from 2014’s Carnival Of Souls, with its formidably solemn, Wire-like riffing and electronic mulch.

Thomas concludes the show, with characteristically wry cyncism, by leading the group in a made-up number called Buy Merchandise Now, which is enthusiastically heeded. Ubu’s wanderings continue, covering new ground all the while.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.