After The Fire: Brunel Rooms, Swindon

A YEAR AGO, After The Fire must have felt like rock and roll lepers. And even today they’re probably not a name to be bandied around while posing at The Lyceum watching the latest batch of Clash clones pulling the musical wool over your ears.

Any band walking in the valley between pomp rock and the new wave must be used to dodging the slings and arrows from both hills. But what seems like chalk and cheese to us fashion-paranoid hacks doesn’t seem to bother Joe Punter outside the North Circular Road. The diverse Tuesday night crowd at Swindon’s Brunel Rooms had no qualms about enjoying this gig.

If After The Fire’s musical roots sometimes veer towards the Genesis end of the spectrum, the enthusiasm and drive of their performance (and many of their song-writing ideas) owes everything to the boisterous energy of the last couple of years.

The pompous element probably stems from the key position occupied by keyboard player Peter Banks in the musical scheme of things. Most of the instrumental breaks are his — catchy little repetitive riffs while the rest of the hand click their heels smartly behind him.

Their opening number, the instrumental ‘Joy’, hammers the point home firmly; perhaps loo rigidly because what follows has a great deal more scope. You can see it at its broadest on ‘Suspended Animation’, which starts as if it wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘ And Then There Were Three’ and emerges midway through the instrumental break with a brief but emotive guitar solo while the rest of the group suddenly double up on their intensity level. Guitarist John Russel only lakes a few solos in the sel. preferring lo stick to a concise, choppy rhythm style for most of the time. I’d have liked him to step forward more often, particularly later in the set when the keyboard breaks started becoming a bit too predictable.

Singer Andy Piercey has the angular looks and urgent delivery that gives the band their street credibility. And when the tempo is really brisk, as on ‘Check It Out’, they come across with a force that knocks you back on your heels.

It’s ironic that the one song where they seemed to become straitjacketed and restrained was the single. ‘One Rule For You’, which is scarcely representative of their music. It’s almost as if they feel overawed by it. Me? I’d have gone for ‘Laser Love”, which is melodic enough to get airplay but still carries a jaunty swing to it.

© Hugh FielderSounds, 14 April 1979

Leave a Comment