It was a cool evening in Philadelphia as I walked into the TLA with both excitement and skepticism to see heroes of mine, Gang of Four. The skepticism was me worrying whether this was going to be a dream come true or another group desperately clinging to their past glory. After a pair of opening acts a crowd of anticipated fans began to congregate at the front of the stage in near silence. When Jon King, Andy Gill, Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham took the stage and picked up their instruments, they were like samurai with their swords drawn â€“ this was their weapon of choice and the audience was not going to escape. Andy Gill, with an intimidating glare, launched off the opening shards of â€œNaturalâ€™s Not In It.â€ Burnham and Allen follow the lead with precision timing. By the time King growled the opening lyrics, the fans were already jumping and jerking to the groove. King and Gill moved across the stage like basketball players executing the give-and-go: King grabbing whatever mic was near and Gill unleashing a Hendrix-like fury of sound. This one-two punch was astutely supported by Allenâ€™s frantic bass and Burnham working his kit to the ground.
In a crowd-pleasing set, the band took us through all the classic material of Entertainment!,Solid Gold, and the Yello EP not by simply playing it, but building on it as well. Favorites like â€œEther,â€ â€œParalysedâ€ and â€œI Found That Essence Rareâ€ were heavier here than on their respective albums. Gill transformed what were once just simple angular cuts to a wall of dance rock noise. Midway through the set, the band and crowed showed signs of wear and in two songs, â€œHeâ€™d Send In The Armyâ€ (which featured King taking a bat to a microwave for rhythm and Gill playing his guitar with his foot) and an incendiary version of â€œTo Hell With Poverty,â€ energy was restored and rocking continued.
After over an hour, two encores of two songs apiece, Gang of Four showed us that they may have aged but theyâ€™ve not gotten old. Following three decades of coming and going from the public eye the politics, the sound, and the energy of Gang of Four remain. This band conquered the TLA without feeling like a re-hash of the past. When Andy Gill humbly stated, â€œThank you very much. I love you people,â€ the feeling was perfectly mutual.