Friday, 5 June 2015

Second Belgium trip - 1984

TSOM returned to Belgium for a second visit as part of their sophomore European jaunt in the spring of 1984 with the newly ensconced (and still psychedelic shirted and pre-hat) Wayne Hussey in tow for a pair of dates which were in fact linked festivals, in the style of the modern Leeds/Reading Festivals in the UK, the then very popular Torhout/Werchter Festivals in Belgium (which I went to that year to finally see Lou Reed, but that’s another story ) or indeed (and probably the best parallel) the indoor Futurama Festivals in Stafford and Leeds a few years earlier.

With the Low Countries (like the North of England suffering with the decline of Western European heavy industry) particularly receptive to the metallised clank of the loose “posi-punk” movement, a successful Belgian edition of Futurama had been held in the soulless barn still known today as the Brielpoort in Deinze (a small town south of Ghent) in September 1983 (with Xmal, Virgin Prunes, SPK,etc)  and another enterprising promoter engaged the same venue for an “Alive in June” Festival to be held on 1st June 1984, with the same line-up to appear the day before (the “May Follies” Festival on 31st May) in a sports hall strategically situated between Brussels and Antwerp, just north of the town of Duffel (as in “bag” or “coat”, in the heart of the Belgian textile industry).



The Pallieterhal in Lier, with its parabolic roof and vast dimensions, was probably very well-suited to the basketball games which it usually accommodated (the photo is from a basketball blog), but was acoustically not the best choice for the gig, and this was not the only error the organisers made. According to a very frank contemporary review in a French language newspaper stuffed with wonderful local detail, the promoters chose to sell tickets on the day from a van in the carpark, but unlike the orderly queues that form around your typical Flemish town square chip van, this soon became besieged by eager fans, a state of affairs which persisted long after all the tickets had been sold.

The gig itself started two hours late, with local heroes Front 242 struggling to inspire a crowd bathed in the daylight streaming into the cavernous venue. At least they fared better than the next act, a last minute replacement for (former Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen’s) Shriekback. Why the promoters thought that the fey whimsy of Prefab Sprout would go down well with an alternative crowd is hard to fathom, but the reaction was sadly predictable. In interviews collected on the Sproutology website, singer Paddy McAloon recalls “The audience were Neanderthal. These guys were 1977. They were still spitting !” and “We were treated like animals by animals”. They were canned off-stage, to be followed by TSOM. Coming on in such circumstances could have led to a triumphant return, but the contemporary reviewer notes that the band were “strangely passive and not very interesting”. Fortunately, legendary new wave photographer Philippe Carly was again in attendance and his pictures give a good impression of the band’s changing image, with Marx becoming ever bolder in his choice of shirt, a heavily side-burned Von wearing one black glove in addition to his equally dark frock-coat over his (guess what colour) shirt, and Adams sporting the long-haired, hat and leather coat combo that would see him through most of the rest of his career in various minor bands. Carly does not appear to have thought it important to take any snaps of the most recent hired hand at that time, sensibly saving his spools for the following day’s photo-shoot of Eldritch at the Sheraton (prior to the Brielpoort gig that evening at which Nacht und Nebel replaced Front 242 in an otherwise unchanged line-up, therefore including TSOM) which includes the infamous “no glasses holding a bunch of flowers” picture. Needless to say, a reasonable quality bootleg recording of the gig is also in circulation among collectors.

Connoisseurs of the early history of the Sisters will not be surprised to learn that the headliners for the pair of festivals were their old muckers The Psychedelic Furs, and the reviewer states that they saved the day, archly noting that they had brought a grandiose light-show and their own sound system, putting on a “brilliant and hyper-professional” performance, with Richard Butler in particularly sparkling form as they showcased songs from the (then) forthcoming “Mirror Moves” LP.


Like many of the venues from the European tours of the 80s, the Pallieterhal gradually fell into a period of decline, unlike the Brielpoort which has continued to host TSOM on their regular tours over the past twenty years. As can be seen from the two Google Maps satellite shots shown here, the Pallieterhal (between the football ground and the building with the orange roof which is visible also in the shot at the top of this page) was demolished earlier this decade to make for a wider access road to the new municipal centre of Lier comprising council offices and the police headquarters. The Sisters have however continued to make Flanders their spiritual “live” home, and will be returning there for their first 2015 gig at the Suikkerock festival in Tienen.


1 comment:

  1. thanks for the sproutology credit - in return I've nicked your photo ;) Do you have a copy of the French review of the gig?

    ReplyDelete