Live: Spear Of Destiny

The Waterfront, Norwich November 30, 2022

by Mark Harrop

Forty years after the chaotic implosion of post-punk goth extremists Theatre Of Hate, Kirk Brandon has, not surprisingly, developed a calmer, wiser and more reflective demeanour befitting a 66-year-old man.

When Spear Of Destiny rose from the ashes of self-destruction that befell ToH and Brandon’s earlier creation The Pack, few would have placed serious money on this being more than another doomed project.

Kirk Brandon remains a quality act (Picture: Jan Kelly)
Kirk Brandon remains a quality act (Picture: Jan Kelly)

Brandon, however, had other ideas. For four decades he has used Spear Of Destiny as a vehicle for his prolific songwriting, relentless touring and devotion to music.

His back catalogue is vast with a depth and range which would put many – more mainstream and commercially successful – artists to shame.

Drummer Phil Martini (Picture: Jan Kelly)
Drummer Phil Martini (Picture: Jan Kelly)

It’s disappointing that a band so ingrained in the story of the British indie rock scene hasn’t attracted a larger crowd to The Waterfront on a chilly November evening.

The current line-up (and there have been many over the years) features the slightly menacing Adrian Portas on guitar alongside bassist Craig Adams with Phil Martini on the drums.

Adrian Portas: Slightly menacing (Picture: Jan Kelly)
Adrian Portas: Slightly menacing (Picture: Jan Kelly)

It’s clear as soon as Land Of Shame opens the show that this is a quality unit. Brandon’s voice may have mellowed with age but is instantly recognisable.

His guitar playing is flawless, perfectly in tune with Portas in the lead role.

After a frantic Radio Radio, the band dip into new album Ghost Population to introduce Shine, fresh material fitting seamlessly in with the old.

Brandon delivers a mix of the old and the new (Picture: Jan Kelly)
Brandon delivers a mix of the old and the new (Picture: Jan Kelly)

Martini’s incredible, almost tribal, drumming gives Waster an extraordinary energy.

The core band are complemented by saxophonist Clive Osborne and keyboard player Steve Allen-Jones bringing light and shade to a set which trawls the archives to revive Young Men, So In Love With You and the epic These Days Are Gone.

Clive Osborn on the sax (Picture: Jan Kelly)
Clive Osborn on the sax (Picture: Jan Kelly)

Lucky Man slows the pace and shows Brandon’s gentler touch before it’s back to Ghost Population for Pilgrim.

There are moments, which lovers of live music will recognise, when a band just clicks to perfection. This is one of those moments – a superbly crafted track which just seems to endow the band with an irresistible sound. You just don’t want it to end.

Clicking to perfection: Spear Of Destiny (Picture: Jan Kelly)
Clicking to perfection: Spear Of Destiny (Picture: Jan Kelly)

It’s a hard one to follow, but Prison Planet and Pumpkin Man don’t disappoint. I Can See brings out the angry young man in Brandon as the fists pump and chords crash in old-school punk style.

After a three-song encore featuring fan favourite Liberator, the band depart, leaving Brandon to bid a genuinely emotional farewell.

Phil Martini helps provide some extraordinary energy (Picture: Jan Kelly)
Phil Martini helps provide some extraordinary energy (Picture: Jan Kelly)

His tempestuous, turbulent and sometimes traumatic life has just been condensed into a couple of hours and you can see, even after all these years, how much it still means to him. It’s just a pity more people aren’t here to share the experience.

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