The Clash
Electric Ballroom

THEY were going to build an indoor cattle market beside the tube station in Camden, but the residents complained so they settled for a rock venue. They called it the Electric Ballroom.

Past, post and present punky wavers are packed inside the confines like pilchards pickled in perspiration. The ventilation is atrocious, the air is neither `sweaty’ nor `steamy’ but downright uncomfortable, unbearably so.

Don’t ask me ask Joe Strummer.

“if anyone wants to they can go to the ticket office to get a refund now; the reason is it’s too hot to even move properly up here,” he tells the audience halfway through a performance all but ruined by the abysmal nature of the venue and, more pertinently, a complex series of inner and outer tensions.

Don’t ask me - ask Joe Strummer.

“Forget it! Just forget it! It’s not working!” he cries emotionally more than once during the set.

The Clash have hauled themselves up past conceited attitudes, legal wrangles and personal problems with great determination. Through the fiery, dated anger of their debut to the disappointing `Give `Em Enough Rope’ and the attendant corruptions of image and style which surrounded that period, they seem to have emerged wiser and more mature, a realisation of their potential and limitations gelling into the strength and pride of `London Calling’.

Over the past four years I’ve loved and loathed them more than any outfit, the paradoxes and contradictions often prove indigestible. But now they are no longer the misguided CBS employed guerrillas in H-Block T-shirts; there’s no more specious and ambivalent political posturing and no more hopelessly naive attempts to grasp at a concrete definition of reality. I hope it stays that way!

A new optimism and warmth surrounds the band, resulting in the marvellously constructed and resourceful songs which celebrate, generate and feed off that essential feeling of brotherhood and depth. Was it expecting too much, is it too futile to suppose that such an atmosphere can still be encountered at a rock `n’ roll show?

I went looking for a scintillating display of resilient modern rock music inextricably entwined with a crucial sense of community. I got one, but it was bare compensation for the absence of the other; the negative and positive sides of the equation cancelling each other out. It’s not a matter of wanting more than `a bloody good rock band’: any bloody good rock band must be able to function in an environment conducive to the live performance, it’s an intrinsic element which should be part of the whole experience.

Tonight the music seemed to become mangled somewhere .........