Live: The Undertones / The Extons

The Apex, Bury St Edmunds October 21, 2022

by Dave Stevens

The Extons were the support act last night at the Waterfront in Norwich, and they are back on the bill here tonight, on the other side of the county border.

The four members of this west Norfolk outfit look as if they could be from two different bands, but musically they gel and they are tight. If you like indie rock with ringing guitars then this is a band for you.

The Extons receive an increasingly warm response (Picture: Paul Hampson)
The Extons receive an increasingly warm response (Picture: Paul Hampson)

Their influences come through in some songs, such as a hint of the guitar riff from What Can I Say? by The Pigeon Detectives on recent single Social Media.

There’s an increasingly warm reaction to the band through the set, and by the final song there’s the sort of clapping along that often eludes support acts.

Ringing guitars: The Extons (Picture: Paul Hampson)
Ringing guitars: The Extons (Picture: Paul Hampson)

The Undertones, who were woefully underappreciated when they delivered their guitar-driven punk/power pop songs between 1978 and 1983, hit the ground running when they come on with Girls Don’t Like it and You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?).

Now rightly revered (they’ve been covered by artists as diverse as Green Day, Jedward and U2), the Derry band reformed in 1999 with singer Paul McLoone replacing Feargal Sharkey, but with the rest of the line-up unchanged. They’ve been gigging ever since, and they don’t hang about tonight.

Underrated no more: The Undertones (Picture: Paul Hampson)
Underrated no more: The Undertones (Picture: Paul Hampson)

Billy Doherty drives the songs along from the drums. The O’Neill brothers, John and Damien, trade rhythm and lead guitar. Damien and Mickey Bradley, on bass, give us backing vocals that are also a big part of the band’s sound. Tongue in cheek, they call themselves the Vandellas and then the Bandellas.

Singles such as The Love Parade and Jimmy Jimmy are interspersed with album tracks, including the rarely played Crisis Of Mine.

The Undertones provide an evening of classic tunes and good humour (Picture: Paul Hampson)
The Undertones provide an evening of classic tunes and good humour (Picture: Paul Hampson)

There’s also a heartfelt tribute paid to the late John Peel, the DJ from around these parts who championed the band, before they launch into Teenage Kicks – an anthem with lyrics (“Teenage dreams, so hard to beat”) that feature on his gravestone.

The band are really enjoying themselves and The Apex itself (“What a great venue and what lovely woodwork,” McLoone says at one point).

Paul McLoone: What a lovely place to be... (Picture: Paul Hampson)
Paul McLoone: What a lovely place to be… (Picture: Paul Hampson)

The frontman wiggles his hips and strikes poses throughout the evening. There is plenty of banter with the audience and with themselves – when a couple of mistakes are made, they gleefully point them out to each other.

After Here Comes The Summer, Damien O’Neill launches into Hypnotised. The rest of the band look bemused but join in. Afterwards, they ask him to check the setlist and he owns up that he “should have gone to Specsavers”.

There are more than 30 songs from the veterans (Picture: Paul Hampson)
There are more than 30 songs from the veterans (Picture: Paul Hampson)

The main set ends strongly with Wednesday Week, Listening In and Get Over You, but there’s much more to come, thanks to a five-song encore.

After an hour and a half, we’ve had more than 30 songs, all brought to a close with their only top 10 hit, My Perfect Cousin.

As they leave the stage, the happiness of the Northern Irish veterans is as clear as day.

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