The Boomtown Rats + Patrik Fitzgerald at the O2 Academy, Bristol, UK – 28th October 2013

The Boomtown Rats formed in 1975 in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, before moving to England in 1976 searching for a record deal, rejecting Richard Branson’s Virgin in favour of a new label “Ensign”. 1977 saw their first gigs and single and album releases. Their debut “Looking after no 1” reached no.11 in the charts, with their debut album, the eponymous “The Boomtown Rats” reaching no.18 in the UK album charts.

1978 saw The Rats gaining more momentum and notoriety and saw the release of their second album “A Tonic for the Troops” and toppling of the single “Summer Nights” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John from the No1 spot with “Rat Trap”. The Rats have the distinction of being the first Irish band to get a No.1 and are also credited as being the first Punk/New Wave No.1. The following year, the band had a worldwide (no1 in 32 countries!!) Smash hit with “I Don’t Like Mondays” a song written following the news that that an American schoolgirl had taken a gun to school and shot and killed many friend and the school’s principal. The band hit the road on a world tour and released their third album” The Fine Art of Surfacing” reaching No7 in the album charts.

Another world tour in 1980 and ‘81 with the album “Mondo Bongo” (produced by Tony Visconti) released in that year. Courting controversy and trouble every step of the way, The Rats were banned from playing a gig in their own country by the Irish government.

The Rats success had begun to wane as the next wave of electronic/New Romantic music dominated the charts and releases of singles and albums over the next few years saw diminishing returns. The band continued until 1986 when Geldof decided to go solo, but not before organising the world stopping Band Aid “Do They Know its Christmas?” and subsequent “Live Aid” concerts where The Rats played to the world.

Up to date, to 2013 and the remaining members Bob Geldof, Simon Crowe, Garry Roberts, and Pete Briquette reform the band and embark upon a tour to coincide with the release of a box set of their first six albums and “Ratlife” EP.

Tonight’s support is provided by original 1970’s Punk Poet, Patrik Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald ambles onto stage, glass of beer in hand and checks the sound on an acoustic guitar. You could be forgiven for thinking he is one of the roadies, such is his ambivalence. A synth backing track opens the set, and Fitzgerald talks over the track with short prose and a deadpan delivery. His words (occasionally quite Dury-like)speaking of death (“God will give you just one taste”) , servitude (“Serving Classes”), kitchen sink drama and the mundanity of life. . He picks up the acoustic guitar and plays a Bowie song “After All” that “Lou Reed didn’t want”. Whilst introducing one track, dourly stated “This is off the new CD, but I haven’t got any with me”. Apparently unconcerned that he’d lost some potential sales, and showing he wasn’t too fussed about commerciality.

By the time The Rats hit the stage at 9.00, the venue is completely packed to the gunnels. People are lining the staircases to the balconies to get a view of the show. The predominantly thirty-something plus with a few older punks dotted about in the crowd are eager and ready for the action. A short clip of rats being shot with guns announce the start of the show. The band come on to stage to a new track “The Boomtown Rats” a track that sounds like it could quite conceivably have been the result of a Leftfield/Geldof collaboration, if ever they could have gotten together.

The set starts with (I Never Loved) Eva Braun, Geldof pacing the stage, looking like he’s ready to pounce. Geldof’s voice sounds a little hoarse at times, but he’s holding it together. The band, supplemented by an additional guitarist (who is a Bristol boy) and keyboards sound really good. For a band that’s been away so long, they’re playing together well. “Like Clockwork” follows, with the “tick, tock” lyrics and Geldof continuing to move swiftly around the stage (trying to follow him in camera was tricky), arms flailing, bobbing and weaving like he’s trying to dodge a bullet. A moving target is obviously harder to hit.

“Neon Heart” comes next from their debut album. Geldof is warming up, is followed by one of many diatribes to the audience,”We are the Boomtown Rats and we are mega. You are magnificent you are Bristol after the storm!” and continues to explain that the “F… Off Rainproof, pretend Snakeskin suit” is mega and the audience are invited to agree with him, how incredibly mega it is. “This suit is the reason for the band coming back” “Bob, the Gob” Geldof has clearly lost no sense of self-importance over the years.

“(She’s Gonna) Do you in” leads into another rant from Geldof, who aims his words at Obama, the US spying on Germany and the use of CCTV recording your every movement in the city, Facebook holding details of all of our lives, which neatly takes us straight into “Someone’s Looking at You”, thirty years on…we’re still being watched. The crowd is also warmed up too; the temperature is rising in the packed hall and Geldof still energetically putting it out there. “Joey’s on the Street again”, with Geldof recounting the story behind the song of a young lad who used to hang around the band in the early days, having stolen a pair of Crowe’s drumsticks and saying he “was with the band”. One day this lad disappeared, “as a lot of people did in those days” clearly referring to Ireland’s troubles, “and as a lot of people do now”.

“Banana Republic” is treated to a much laid back reggae flavour, Geldof pulls out the harmonica and is weaving in lines from “Many Rivers to Cross”. Next up is “She’s so Modern” followed by “a brand new old song” and the opening piano to “I don’t Like Mondays” begins, the crowd enthusiastically singing along to the line “How to Die!!” with Geldof leaving an extended pause after the line for effect.

“Mary of the 4th Form” see’s Geldof spin “Deep South” style lyrics into the song “I wanna be your lover babe” and “Mississippi bullfrog….” You could be sitting by a river in a southern state. “Looking after No.1” is swiftly followed by more interaction “Bristol, you know what it is” …”Nothing’s changed Bristol, It’s a Rat Trap” Geldof leaning in towards the audience to get his message across. The venue and everyone in it is now hot, sticky and sweaty, but clearly enjoying show. The set closes with rapturous applause from the audience and cheering for more.

After a short break (barely a few seconds), the band return to stage to cover Lou Reed’s “White Light-White Heat” in tribute to Reed who died the day before. “Never Bite The Hand That Feeds” then “Diamond Smiles” and finishing off with “The Boomtown Rats”. The band group together for the obligatory bow and head off stage, each waving and showing appreciation to the audience.

This performance was outstanding; the band looked and sounded like they’d never been away. Geldof moved around on stage like a man in his twenties, never mind his sixties, and whilst his voice at times didn’t quite hit the mark, his energy, and sheer passion more than compensated and he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Geldof had a lot to say in the seventies and eighties…and from tonight’s performance that has not changed. Here is an articulate man with fire in his belly, who is not afraid to share his opinions on the world. You may not agree with his views, but you can’t ignore them. If you can get a ticket for a show on this tour, you’d be mad to miss it.


The Boomtown Rats
Main Set
(I Never Loved) Eva Braun
Like Clockwork
Neon Heart
(She’s Gonna) Do You In
Someone’s Looking at You
Joey’s On The Street Again
Banana Republic
She’s So Modern
I Don’t Like Mondays
Close As You’ll Ever Be
When The Night Comes
Mary of the Fourth Form
Looking After Number One
Rat Trap


White Light/White Heat
Never Bite The Hand That Feeds
Diamond Smiles
The Boomtown Rats
The Boomtown Rats (1977)
A Tonic for the Troops (1978)
The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979)
Mondo Bongo (1980)
V Deep (1982)
In the Long Grass (1984)

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