For some the Mathew Street Festival means a chance to relive their youth and catch some cover acts that play extremely well and catch the spirit brilliantly of those bands that no longer tour or that are so popular, therefore so expensive, that the average person in the street cannot afford to attend any of the gigs they may arrange.
For others it’s the chance to catch fresh talent, young bands that are still doing it for the love and only have the barest glimmer of a world beyond the pubs, clubs and backstreet venues that for now they inhabit. They know that one day they will escape the dark underbelly of their profession and stand upon the bigger stages. More power to them and long may these bands live and breathe.
One band that strides between the two, first made their name in the late 70’s. With their fresh take on world around them, an outspoken vocalist and front man and the use of piano as part of their signature sound, hardly the done thing in the punk scene at the time, The Boomtown Rats were a phenomenon that shook the foundations of the establishment with their witty, urbane and scathing lyrics and precision timing of the collected musicians.
By the time the band finished, Bob Geldof was one of the most important men on the planet, he could command audiences, seemingly at will, and was finally accepted by the old guard. But along the way he left behind what was at first the most important thing, the band itself.
Thanks to drummer Simon Crowe and guitarist Garry Roberts the band started playing again and along with Darren Beale and vocalist Peter Barton have thrilled audiences, young and old, anew.
It is no wonder then that the band received a huge welcome at this year’s Mathew Street Festival and as their 40 minute set progressed it was inspiring to see those who remembered them the first time round accompanied by children and young adults, obviously enjoying the unique sound, who weren’t alive when the Festival first got underway 18 years ago.
Opening their set with Mary of the Fourth Form, the band rolled back the years and showed to all that were gathered at the Tunnels stage why they are still considered one of the best groups to come out of Ireland.
Peter Barton has added significantly to the band and where as he might not have Bob’s sense of outspokenness, he more than makes up for it with the humour in his voice and satisfaction of playing songs that stand the test of time. Alongside Peter as “the new boys” in the band is Darren Beale who at times looked so in place he could have been an original Rat. With his effortless playing and Zebedee on speed manic expression it’s easy to see why Simon and Garry rate the young lad very highly.
With time always against them and a multitude of acts still to come, The Rats gave the audience what they wanted in the hits and a couple of surprise tracks, these included the superb Someone’s Looking at You, the angry look at demoralised inner city youth of Rat Trap and the excellent take on the song Looking Out for Number One.
The band finished an emotive and highly charged set with one of the songs that summed up Live Aid, I Don’t Like Mondays. They might not be The Rats that you remember but they are still The Rats!
Ian D. Hall