Chumbawumba, The Irish Centre, Leeds

Harry Owen February 7, 2002 0

@ The Irish Centre, Leeds
7th February 2002

It’s hard to do wrong in front of an audience of friends and Chumbawumba don’t. Always a band that takes it’s live work seriously, they treated us to a greatest hits show, reminding us of battles we’d fought in the last decade or two and proving ‘you know more Chumbas songs than you think you do’.

This was the Chumbas’ 20th birthday bash and two decades of anarcho-leaning Leedsters were there to celebrate. The atmosphere was a party, this was the home team with no opposition. The Chumbas have made a lot of friends through their continued willingness to play benefits all through their career and the warmth tonight was a payback of sorts.

Support was Bass Cadet – a brass dance scratch band and compere was the ever Ronald Arthur Dewhirst-ish Ronald Arthur Dewhirst, who treated us to his ever crazed poems. So, the Chumbas arrived and hit us with a slab of punk, crass in the extreme – ‘twenty years of the same old shit, hit after hit after hit’. Then on with the ‘hits’ – Repetition then a little ditty dedicated to the Blair/Thatcher axis – ‘can’t eat ‘cos your mouth’s full of shit’. These read like they should be thrash but the Chumba sound is big bouncy horns for bopping to, they even throw in a doo-wop interlude. On to Timebomb ‘stop now, look around, everybody look what’s going down’ and a sarky I’m With Stupid. This is no humourless, hectoring bands of polemicists. Chumbawumba understand showbusiness (sic) and work very very hard at it. There is tireless dancing all over the stage and too many costume changes to count. The band is huge, averaging nine members at a time, including the two horns that make the boppy sound. Like they said about The Grateful Dead – Chumbawumba aren’t the best at what they do, they’re the only ones who do what they do.

I hear acapella folk on modern topics, a West End production -Jesus in Vegas and the Bob The Builder-isms of Tubthumping. Wearing their hearts on their vests, Enough Is Enough ‘give the fascist man a gunshot’ gives the lie to the lentil chewing crusty stereotypes. Other favourites – and you really have heard these somewhere – Ugh Your Ugly Houses, Unilever, Hammering and Slagging. The whole of the Bush administration get slagged off, one by one while the band have a laugh and a joke in a Graham Norton stylee with their mates.

Chumbawumba are real english heritage, more valuable than a listed building and have worked harder than a National Trust to keep their spirit and music alive. This was a celebration of the music that records struggle and inspires struggle. It was a family album and reminded me that we WON some of the battles. Nice one.

Ross McGibbon

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