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Chameleons: The Cavern Club Liverpool 09/02/2022

A damp and breezy Wednesday evening sees us making the journey to the home of Liverpool’s most famous sons to see one of Manchester’s most criminally underrated and yet hugely influential bands. I’ve never been through the doors of The Cavern before, and even though it’s not actually the same place The Beatles played all those years ago (it’s a re-creation built close to the original site) Mark Burgess, the bassist and lead vocalist tells us all it’s something of a childhood dream for him; “My seven year old self is fucking loving this”; it’s also their first time there too. 

Before we get to that point, Punk stalwarts The Membranes get the night underway with a highly diverse setlist from their extensive back catalogue, energetically summoning reaction from the packed crowd with dark Gothic Rock and old school hard-edged spiky Punk anthems; there’s even a touch of dub thrown in for those who enjoy a dance. A couple of technical issues don’t phase them one bit, and the set is bloody good fun and well received by the crowd.

Chameleons come out on the tiny stage to rapturous applause, and perform the album “What Does Anything Mean? Basically” in full. Possibly the most influential album most people have never heard of. When I play this album to anyone for the first time the usual response is “it has a sound of/it sounds like” a list of artists from anywhere between 1990 and the present day, and from genres as disparate as Stadium Rock, Alternative Rock, and Shoegaze. Truth is all the bands they usually reference come well after this 1985 Post-Punk masterpiece. It really was way ahead of its time; possibly too far ahead for its own good.

So, was this a bunch of 60+ guys with beer bellies and bills to pay cashing in on a new interest in their old material? NOT EVEN ONE FUCKING BIT. There are teenagers in the crowd who scream along with every single word while moshing hard with others three times their age; there’s a full-on pit going for four or five of the bounciest bangers, there’s massed sing-alongs and barely a square inch of this iconic venue not taken by a hot and sweaty body.  
The musicianship is flawless; at one point Mark’s Bass pedal dies mid song; and it seems principal guitarist and founding member Reg Smithies fills in the bassline an octave up without skipping a note in his own part like it should have always been played that way. And the sound is MASSIVE. Not just loud for the sake of loud; this is a band with anthemic songs that derive their power from dynamics; the ebb and flow, not simply just having everything turned up to 11 all the time. 

"The most inspirational and underrated band to emerge from the aftermath of Punk, and by merry hell do they still rip it up on stage. I need a whisky after all that shouting along"

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