Radio Birdman

Radio Birdman 2024 titleThe Gov. 23 Jun 2024


It is inconceivable that tonight was the end of time for Radio Birdman. What I have seen and heard was little short of extraordinary; a band who came to make a statement and from the very first searing chords of Smith & Wesson Blues did precisely that.


The support band, Cull The Band, featured the twin guitar attack of Pete The Stud and Jeff Stephens. Pretty loud, pretty murderous, Stephens playing a backseat to the Studs histrionics. It was the first time I’ve seen Exploding White Mice guitarist Jeff not playing a Rickenbacker, though that is many years ago. Anyway, Cull The Band feature a drummer who likes to beat seven shades out of his kit and make the rest of the band fight to catch up, and I’m okay with that. The singer is the real surprise - she is just good. Charlie Bruiser has a great rock n roll voice, and she takes control of the situation. A little research suggests she’s only been with the band a few months, but this is a lineup to watch.


I might have missed the first song or two, coming in at Three Time Loser but it grabbed the attention from the outset. To follow that up with Tell That Girl To Shut Up (1980s Holly & The Italians cover, if you’re interested) was just odd and also amazing. Later on, after all the band had had a turn at singing, we got the forthcoming single Tearin’ Me Apart in all its glory.


So, back to Radio Birdman. An early gig for the old folk – and it’s fair to suppose few in the crowd would see 50 again, but that rather bore out the reason for the event in the first place, I suppose. But supercharged rock ‘n’ roll played well ought to be timeless, and the energy is the thing. Right from the start they made it clear they were in no mood for taking prisoners, and the setlist reflected a determination to give the best. Second song: Alone In The Endzone. Third song: Do The Pop. Fourth: Crying Sun… a personal favourite for its underplayed guitar rondo.


Descent Into The Maelstrom - guitarists Dave Kettley and Deniz Tek are stalking each other across the stage, eyes locked as they synchronise the attack, and as the band takes the briefest of pauses it appears they’ve changed gear. Man With Golden Helmet provides the spark, and it’s a surprise since the song is reliant upon the way Pip Hoyle’s keyboard works across the top of the song structure, providing a melodic glissando to the controlled chaos which underlies it. The surprise is that drummer Nik Rieth appears to go all in, losing himself in the bowels of the song, driving it relentlessly forward.


They are off, this is Radio Birdman as good as it gets. Anglo Girl Desire gets the full treatment, bassist Jim Dickson’s head is twitching like he’s having a bad dream. I’ve seen Dickson in the New Christs so many times I can almost gauge his mood; he and Tek barely look at each other but hold their side of the stage solid. It is singer Rob Younger who looks as though he might falter, steps back, then snaps his feet and renews the assault. A reprieve for the crowd is provided by 2006’s You Just Make It Worse, a song known to many but not all.


Iskender Time morphs into Dark Surprise, then Hand Of Law provides the next spark. Tek is increasingly hunched over his guitar, pulling the squawking string-torturing chords out of it, Dickson alongside him is lost in holding the rhythm down, mouth open and neck bobbing, and on the other side of the stage Pip Hoyle is moving and bouncing on his feet, a country doctor dressed implausibly as a member of Huey Lewis & The News for a fancy dress party. All too soon we are at the end of the set – New Race – and the folks shout “Yeah Hup!!!” in celebration.


They were never going to be allowed to leave without an encore: Roky Erikson’s You’re Gonna Miss Me, MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, then the glorious melody of More Fun, i-94 and finally Aloha Steve & Danno. The band is locked in, sweating, ripping into the song’s structure as though there would be no tomorrow. Against the odds then, and the surprise which allows me to hope this is not the end, they did not play TV Eye, almost a signature for the end of the set. It did not matter. This truly was one for the ages.

It is tempting to become sentimental in the extreme and write ‘Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn’ but that would be sacrilege.


Alex Wheaton


When: 23 Jun

Where: The Gov

Bookings: Closed