Review: A Reinvigorated Gang of Four Gives a Rollicking Performance at Bottom Lounge

When Gang of Four announced their reunion, I was over the moon. Purveyors of dancey post punk new wave jams, Gang of Four feels like a band that should always be on your mind. This was set to be an incredible experience with the tour playing songs exclusively from their initial run as a band, 1977-1983. Original members and founders Jon King and drummer Hugo Burnham would be joined by returning bassist Sara Lee and new guitarist David Pajo. The only thing missing was cofounder Andy Gill, who unfortunately died in early 2020. Despite their fallen bandmate, Gang of Four was able to come together for this tour and show that they haven’t lost a step. Rather, they’ve likely gained a few new ones.

The crowd at Bottom Lounge definitely leaned older, but make no mistake, it was a nice and diverse audience. Matching the wide birth of flags on display onstage (Pride, USA, UK, Black Lives Matter, to name a few), the audience was as nice and inviting as can be. Some dressed in their lavish going-out clothes, others in full punk aesthetic, others just ready to enjoy another show. All of this was underlined by an eclectic DJ set, that kept the crowd entertained before Gang of Four would storm the stage.

Now make no mistake, Gang of Four are not the younguns they were when these songs were initially recorded. But with moments of all four members of the band getting to their spots on stage, a wide array of passion exploded from them. “Return the Gift” kicked things off, set the fire earlier and bright. Drummer Hugo Burnham was a madman behind his kit, Sara Lee grooved her bass with precision, David Pajo’s stoicism drove the guitars with palpable determination and John King… John King embodied the manic aura that overflows every Gang of Four song. This reinvigorated Gang of Four was dead set on having a good time.

King seemed unstoppable and possessed, dashing around the stage, dancing with the fervor demanded of the songs, and just plain and simply have a damn good time. Sometimes he would disappear off stage for a second only to return with just as much energy as he left. The crowd too seemed emboldened by his nonstop movements, screaming lyrics back at the stage like it was their job. “Ether” in particular felt explosive as its outro with the repeating “There may be oil” was filled with its furious piss and vinegar.

It was a night of highlight after highlight. Sara Lee bought more of her vocals to the forefront for “I Love a Man in Uniform,” much to the delight of the crowd. “Anthrax,” the noise and despairing love song, bowled over the crowd with Pajo’s guitar work and Burnham’s hypnotic drums. “At Home He’s a Tourist” saw the band at their most precise as King’s voice takes this incredible cadence outlining the song’s list like troubles. However the highlight of the night came towards the middle of the set in a familiar but all the more vital moment. King disappeared off stage again, this time reemerging with a dented microwave and an equally damaged bat. King began slamming the bat onto the microwave and the band followed shortly behind, giving the patriarchal takedown “He’d Send in the Army” all their attention. King put his all into the song and microwave, before tossing it off stage and into the photo pit at the track’s end. It was brash, energetic, and everything that makes Gang of Four great.

As with seemingly every show on tour so far, there were surprises in store for the audience of diehard fans. The encore seems chock full of them as Gang of Four returned to the stage alongside White Mystery’s Miss Alex White who would be performing with the band for a few songs. Immediately they went into “Capitol (It Fails Us Now),” the next surprise as the song hasn’t been played in decades. Together, the Gang of Four and White ripped through a couple more songs, following up with “Call Me Up” and “I Found That Essence Rare.” It was a rollicking performance that got capped off with “Damaged Goods,” a song that had the already invested crowd singing at the top of their lungs. The song’s finishing exuberant chanting of “GOODBYE GOODBYE GOODBYE” sent the crowd home quite happy after such an incredible night.

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