Of all the things I expected to see tonight, five people from Cardiff giving it their best Bucks Fizz and having an orchestrated dance about wasn’t top of my list.
I’d reckoned without Panic Shack.
Panic Shack are as full of beans as the Heinz Factory. They live in a day-glo world. They are, essentially what The Dollyrots would be if they’d grown up in South Wales.
So they sing about sandwiches on “Meal Deal” and they get in your heads with “I Don’t Really Like It”. Their sense of theatre is never far away and “Jiu Jits You” (the one with the Strictly routine) rather makes that plain. “Baby” is bratty and “The Ick” is essentially a tantrum set to music (essentially it is like this, if you ever go out with Sarah “Hardbeats Harvey” don’t shush her in the cinema for goodness sake. “Who’s Got My Lighter?” is as simple as it sounds, and that’s Panic Shack. Fun, a little bit crazy, and they’d probably have stolen your tuck shop money. Watch them go.
“A year ago” recalls Bobby Vylan “we were playing the little room over there.” Then he stops, as if in disbelief at the fact people are crowd-surfing in the opening “meditation” that he and Bobbie Vylan – the band’s drummer – always engage in, before adding: “Well, look at us now……”
The self-styled “Fred Perry Mafia” have, in the words of one of their songs “got the gammon all feeling sick now” based on the fact that they write songs that matter. That mean something. That are about something.
It’s two years now since I saw them open for The Offspring and they came out on stage to 5,000 people in an arena and said: “Kill the queen. Why not man? She killed Diana” and I had a new favourite band.
Which is why, although my experiences are not the ones in “I Heard You Want Your Country Back” the visceral anger that bursts forth from that and others like “Take That” (the best song of the decade so far) is universal, likewise “Northern Line”, it might be set in London but it carries everyone along.
The cricket bat comes out for “CSGB” as usual, “Pulled Pork” is as vicious and violent a condemnation of the police as can be, and “He Sold Guns” slows things down a touch, but tells a story that few in here could empathise with.
They’ve got a new album coming out next year, and they play a smattering from it. On this evidence, it is going to be a cracker. “He’s A Man” condemns casual violence against women with trademark forthrightness, “Dream Big” almost seems like their own anthem, while “Hunger Games” – the next single – is perhaps the best of the lot.
They balance this with “We Live Here” the song that they announced themselves with, and “Delicate Nature” – a song they wrote with Laurie Vincent of Soft Play.
The band have been vocal (and may we say, right) in their support for Palestine, a fact they underline here before “Pretty Songs” and the line in that one: “If you wanna hold hands and sing/Go do it over there while the big boys play, okay” is very much the manifesto.
Yet, watching them here, as they play “Wicked And Bad” with Bobby crowd-surfing and hundreds of people going crazy, it’s worth pointing out that as much as anything else, they are a sensational live band.
It’s just that there’s so much more. As Bobby points out here: “Two black guys, playing punk rock, without a guitar in sight on stage, it’s mad, I get it.”
It is. But it’s also true to say that Bob Vylan are arguably the most important band in Britain right now.