Into Music Review: Dead Men Walking

Concert: Dead Men Walking 
Venue: Glasgow Oran Mor
Date:  11 November 2021

Post Punk/Alt. Rock supergroup Dead Men Walking have been on the go for around twenty years now and have had a shifting line up throughout that period with the likes of Glen Matlock, Slim Jim Phantom, Billy Duffy among others playing their part at one time or another. The current combination though is perhaps the most constant – and best – since inception. Mainstay Kirk Brandon is accompanied by Stiff Little Fingers front man Jake Burns as well as a rhythm section consisting of the Ruts DC duo of Dave Ruffy and Segs Jennings.  

Despite seeing Spear of Destiny, Theatre of Hate and SLF frequently in recent years, I’d somehow never got around to seeing Dead Men Walking, so I didn’t know what to expect as I walked into the best venue in Glasgow’s West End; the welcoming Oran Mor. The gig was seated as it was an acoustic affair and there was a distinct swell of anticipation pulsing through the packed out crowd as they awaiting the band’s arrival. 

What followed was ninety minutes of thrills, bonuses and tales from the band that had the punters laughing at the jokes and listening intently to more serious discussions on mental health and wellbeing. 

Kicking off with Theatre of Hate’s Slave was a clever and perhaps unexpected move, Ruffy’s maracas laying down the beat, which coupled with a hypnotic, rumbling guitar, perfectly offset Brandon’s powerful voice. And on that, Kirk’s vocal range showed no sign of easing, the acoustic setting allowed it to stand tall as a powerful musical instrument in its own right.   

Next up, The Ruts Something That I Said saw Segs take lead vocal. With the other three providing backing, the guitar work was intricate and accentuating the bridge between punk classic and stripped back acoustic reinterpretation. 

Jake then told the story of the writing of a Christmas track which his management encouraged, hoping to make the next Fairytale of New York. Fast forward a fortnight and the song was coming on great but Burns confirmed that the focus had changed significantly with the track now telling the story of the heinous abuse of children at the hands of the clergy. Again, acoustically Guilty As Sin lends itself to the lyrics which hit home unreservedly. 

The band have been busy of late and have recorded a new album, FREEDOM – It Ain’t On The Rise with Kirk travelling into London to meet with Dave and Segs while Jake provided his recordings from his American base. The album is a gem in the making and includes both new tracks and old from the collectives back catalogue. 

The middle section of the gig focused on three tracks with very specific meanings. Man Down, Blame and a reinterpretation of SLF’s My Dark Places saw the DMW contingent talk about mental health, wellbeing and in the latter song’s case, Burns opened up about his own experience of depression. At times bleak, stark and morbid, it nonetheless brought home the reality to what every single one of us can be close to at any point in our lives. The message is clear, it’s normal to experience and we should seek out help whenever we have the black dog on our shoulder. 

Thereafter, we had Kirk telling the audience that the inspiration for the track Never Take Me Alive was apparently a sweet shop robbery. Cue Jake asking if there was a bounty on the heads of the robbers… 

Wasted Life was completely redone, the track slowed down before Segs took the lead on Golden Boy, the band completely in the zone and my highlight of the night, the Spanish guitar adding extra gravitas.

New track Dorothy, inspired by The Wizard of Oz and taking a pop at the likes of Elon Musk, was expertly constructed and showcased the new album so well. 

Alternative Ulster had the crowd on their feet, punching the air (a la Barrowland March 17th) while Ruffy on drums was bouncing like the Duracell bunny with intense zeal before a blazing and incendiary Babylon’s Burning brought the set to an end. Unplanned and unrehearsed the band came back for one more, Suspect Device and again the crowd accompanied the band in a sing-a-long that rounded off the most enjoyable evening I’ve had in a long time. 

Dead Men Walking have their new album FREEDOM – It Ain’t On The Rise out now – to buy it, visit the band’s website here

John Welsh
@welshjb

Links:

@kirkbrandon

@JakeBurnsSLF

@daveruffy

@SegsRuts

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