May 20, 2015
“Oi! . . Leather, bristles, studs, and . . . wrinkles!” screams the 53-year-old Colin Abrahall, lead singer of iconic UK Punk band GBH. It's a play on the title of GBH's 1981 debut EP Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne. The acne of Abrahall's youth has long since faded, replaced by the aforementioned wrinkles, but the fury and power of GBH is still alive and kicking. As proof, the band rips into “Race Against Time” as the dance floor of Slim's explodes into a melee of slam dancing, pogoing, and flying beers.
[jump] Abrahall, while no longer resembling the classic postcard picture of how a punk should look (like he did in his youth), still looks like a punk. He sports a black leather motorcycle jacket, studded belt, black skin-tight jeans, motorcycle boots, and short spikes of bleached-blonde hair. He lurches menacingly in front of the microphone stand, lifting and shaking it in the air, controlling the room with a strong stage presence and charisma honed over the decades.
His bandmates, Colin “Jock” Blyth (guitar), Ross Lomas (Bass), and Scott Preece (drums) don't look so traditionally punk, but rather like men who have spent the last 30-plus years playing in a punk band, with shaved heads, black clothes, and a lot of tattoos. They all play with great energy and confidence, true punk professionals doing what they've been doing their entire adult lives. For stage props the band keeps it simple, backed only by an intimidating black banner with white lettering that simply reads “G.B.H”.
After opening the night with “Unique” off 2010's Perfume and Piss, which was met with a tepid reaction from the crowd, GBH spent the rest of the night focusing on the early ’80s classics that played a large role in defining what would come to be know as the “UK 82” sub-genre of punk. All 15 tracks off the expanded CD version of Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne elicit riotous responses from the crowd made up of 13-year-olds with GBH patches on their denim vests, 60-year-olds with GBH patches on their denim vests, and everyone inbetween. Bodies, young and old, flew around the room and off the stage all night, with the pairing of “City Baby Attacked by Rats” and “City Baby's Revenge” garnering the most in way of sing-along choruses from the pit. When GBH tore through “No Survivors” Abrahall (who is, once again, 53-years-old) decided to jump into the air, mic stand in hand, kicking his feet out to either side — a move he would employ a few more times before the night was over.
“No Survivors” also kicked off a particularly effective and exciting stretch of the set where “Self Destruct,” “Big Women,” “Sick Boy,” “Slit Your Own Throat,” “Am I Dead Yet?,” and “Give Me Fire” were all played in rapid succession, whipping the crowd into a state of punk rock delirium. The energy in the room is at its zenith when Abrahall tells the crowd, “The first time we played San Francisco was 1983, which officially makes us quite fucking old.”
It's true, Abrahall and crew are quite fucking old, but they aren't dead yet and they are doing a top notch job as the “global punk rock ambassadors” which Abrahall exclaimed GBH to be, a position the group has earned over the last three decades, and maintains with performances like the one last night at Slim's.
– GBH did the most-punk encore ever. Abrahall ran off stage for about 30 seconds with the bass player stood behind his amp and the guitar and drummer didn't move at all. Then Abrahall returned to the stage and asked the crowd if they were ready for more.
– I was standing by the GBH merch table and overheard Lars Frederiksen of Rancid inquiring about purchasing a GBH poster.
– When Fang played “Skinheads Smoke Dope” some skinheads I happened to be standing near started smoking dope.
Race Against Time
Dead on Arrival
Slit Your Own Throat
Am I Dead Yet?
Give Me Fire
Kids Get Down
Drugs Party in 526
City Baby Attacked by Rats
City Baby's Revenge
I Feel Alright (Iggy and The Stooges cover)