Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Vapors Live In NYC 10/21/18

The Vapors at the Mercury Lounge, NYC photo c/o Michelle Lyons Buckner

Band reunions are always a dodgy affair, especially ones from the 80's. There's two versions of the Beat out there (depending on which continent you're on) each fronted by one original member and a host of young faces in the line up with no other originals in the line up. Then there's that farce called Big Country sans deceased original lead singer Stuart Adamson (ditto for a Jez Bird-less Lambrettas) a Members without Nicky Tesco, a Stranglers with two original members (one of them is NOT Hugh Cornwell) and don't even get me started on From The Jam and what are there like two original members left in The Specials these days?!

So with all that said I was cautiously skeptical when it was announced on Instagram that The Vapors would be coming to NYC. But the photos looked promising with lead singer/rhythm guitarist David Fenton on board with lead guitarist Ed Bazalgette and bassist Howard Smith with "new guy" Michael Bowes occupying the drum seat.  But like me the rest of the East Coast jumped at the chance to see them so much that three nights in a row at NYC's Mercury Lounge were sold out almost immediately as they went on sale.  I had not been to the Mercury in almost two decades and the trek in to the Big Apple was long, but it would be worth it.

Opening act The Split Squad's line up read like a Who's Who of power pop with Plimsoul Eddie Munoz on guitar, Fleshtone Keith Streng on guitar, Blondie's legendary Clem Burke on skins,  Josh Kantor, an organist from the Boston Red Sox on keyboards and a gent named Michael Giblin on lead vocals and bass. They were a tough act to follow playing a raucously delightful set of some heavy duty power pop (with a cool cover of The Small Face's "Sorry She's Mine" in there) and kept it short and very sweet.

The Vapors at the Mercury Lounge, NYC photo c/o Michelle Lyons Buckner
And so it was following such a heavy opener that the Vapors bounded onstage to a thunderous applause from the largest gathering of 50-somethings I'd seen since my last Paul Weller show 3 or 4 years ago.  Clearly by the looks of the young guitar player they were down to two original members (lead singer David Fenton later mentioned mid set "you may have noticed that Ed Bazalgette isn't with us, he couldn't come so this is my son Dan").  Despite a bit of O.T.T. onstage swagger Dan didn't miss a note and complimented the band perfectly in the music department. They launched into their first number, "Bunkers" like a well oiled machine and all around I noticed wide eyed, jaws agape punters who like me were in the process of being blown away. Throughout the gig I realized how intricate and melodic their material always was, clearly The Vapors were NEVER four chord wonders! Their 18 track set included just two new numbers as they played a host of tunes from their two LP's "New Clear Days" and "Magnets" and some B-sides as well (yes I'm a bit of a Homer Simpson when it comes to that: "play the old crap!") !  Highlights were a brilliant "Silver Machines" with it's complex melodies, the moody and bleak "Magnets" and my favorite "Waiting For The Weekend". They played "Trains", "News At 10",  "Jimmie Jones" and even their only US hit "Turning Japanese" (something of a stereotype and a bad punch line for idiots who slagged them off back then). They all sounded amazingly fresh. The whole set was brilliant and executed with precision and flawlessly performed and best of all David Fenton's voice sounded the same as it did 38 years ago. The band were clearly bowled over by their reception and their playing certainly showed it! Let's hope they're back again soon because in another 38 years...

Mercury Lounge 10/21/18 Setlist:
Live At The Marquee
Silver Machines
King L
One Of My Dreams
Spring Collection
Jimmie Jones
Waiting For The Weekend
Letter From Hiro
Turning Japanese
News At Ten

Here Comes The Judge

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