mon 01/03/2021

Peter Perrett, The Garage | reviews, news & interviews

Peter Perrett, The Garage

Peter Perrett, The Garage

The Only Ones frontman pops up for a rare and riveting performance

The one and only

Peter Perrett reappears for his third encore. This time his band doesn’t play with him. He attacks the guitar alone, “No Peace for the Wicked” and “It’s the Truth”, both songs from his days in The Only Ones, 35 years ago. His distinctive cracked voice is strong. In any case, the crowd assist him, even though these are not sing-along songs so much as perfectly constructed mini-melodramas of the heart.

Peter Perrett reappears for his third encore. This time his band doesn’t play with him. He attacks the guitar alone, “No Peace for the Wicked” and “It’s the Truth”, both songs from his days in The Only Ones, 35 years ago. His distinctive cracked voice is strong. In any case, the crowd assist him, even though these are not sing-along songs so much as perfectly constructed mini-melodramas of the heart. Clad in a black open-neck shirt and – rare for him – no shades, he’s not the pale wasted junkie princeling of myth. He’s clearly invigorated – fragile, for sure, but with drive and purpose about him. The whole night tingles with a sense of occasion.

Of the great songwriters of the immediate post-punk era, Peter Perrett (along with The TV Personalities’ Dan Treacy) may be the least heralded. At the time, The Only Ones’ musical virtuosity was anathema to punk’s stern year-zero ethos; their doomed romanticism, debauched drug use, and Byronic, Keith Richards dress sense further alienated them from a music scene zealously adhering to lo-fi puritanism and stark experimentalism. In short, they didn’t fit. However, time has treated their three studio albums and concurrent Peel sessions more kindly than those of many of their contemporaries. A multiplicity of bands have drawn from them since, from The Smiths to Suede to Babyshambles. Tonight backed by sons Peter (bass) and Jamie (guitar), Perrett veers between old gems and new material. He staunchly believes in his new songs but has, he tells us, finally learnt how to put together a set that gives both he himself and his audience what they want.

Much of his new material appears imbued with passion for his wife Zena

Perrett’s sons have their own band, Strangefruit, who support, fronted by the charismatic and sexy Jenny Maxwell. They close their 25-minute set with Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love”. Their sound recalls long lost NME faves, Lush, but is more opulent. Maxwell reappears during Perrett’s set to play violin on one of his new songs, a piece that recalls the Velvet Underground with John Cale at the helm. Much of his new material appears imbued with passion for his wife Zena. The pair ran away together as teenagers in the mid-Seventies and are still together. “If I could live my life again I’d chose you every time,” runs one lyric. Another song, “definitely on the next album”, is called “Carousel”. It’s strong. Perrett’s fire still burns. He also plays a couple from his Nineties resurgence, including the quirky “Woke Up Sticky”, which likens drug use to alien abduction. However, naturally it’s The Only Ones’ numbers that receive the most rapturous reception.

“The Beast”, he tells us, is one of the few songs he actually wrote directly about drugs. From The Only Ones' eponymous 1978 debut, it’s rife with foreboding – “Run from the beast, there’s darkness in his eyes” – and is one of the best songs ever written about smack. “Another Girl, Another Planet” is as gorgeous as always. Jamie Perrett learnt guitar at the knee of The Only Ones’ John Perry and his fluid, graceful, fiery playing is a match for the original. “From Here to Eternity” – with its line “All that glitters is not gold, and even serpents shine” – is wrenching. Perrett has us right from his opening song, “Oh Lucinda (Love Becomes a Habit)”, but by the time he reaches the encores, peppering them with diamond after diamond, “Someone Who Cares”, “No Solution” and the epic “Big Sleep”, the sheer emotive quality is dizzying.

Perrett has a well-documented history of disappearing from the public eye, often as a result of retreating into solipsistic drug use. His last major bout of activity was with the reformed Only Ones in 2007-08, a venture he has since deemed occasionally enjoyable but not to his taste. There was a brief solo resurgence in the mid-Nineties, but before that he disappeared in 1981 at The Only Ones’ demise. This concert is, in other words, a rare treat. He's on fine, fine form. It is to be fervently hoped he stays around this time and delivers on such vital promise.

Overleaf: Watch "Prisoners" performed live at Felipop Festival 2014

By the time he reaches the encores, peppering them with diamond after diamond, the sheer emotive quality is dizzying

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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