Music is littered with people who were once the next big thing. In the early 1980’s singer Kirk Brandon had two strong stabs at music immortality with the bands Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny.
Theatre of Hate were a band that became indie darlings in the early 1980’s thanks to their seminal hit Do You Believe in the Westworld. This was the era of Adam and the Ants, and Brandon took the spirit of the Native American onto the next level with strong drum beats, hypnotic looping rhythm and a high pitched vocal chant. While things have moved on for Brandon with the more seriously minded Spear of Destiny founded in 1982, some of these initial musical styles have remained constant.
Spear of Destiny were one of those bands that attracted a good number of dedicated fans and in the mid-late 1980’s every student pub had at least one person wearing a leather jacket with their moniker and logo on the back. Today Brandon regularly tours with both Spear of Destiny and Theatre of Hate (and also tours solo with a more orchestral backdrop (cello) to keep it all lively.
Today in his early 60’s Brandon looked good despite his well documented troubles with prescription anti depressants, heart surgery, court battles (Boy George claimed Brandon was a boyfriend) and subsequent bankruptcy. You have to have extra respect for a man who has made a living from music and performing for almost 40 years despite all these issues. While Brandon and his band of merry men were playing at the Huddersfield Parish he sold out the venue in a heartbeat and many of his audience were questioning why he hadn’t arranged to play somewhere larger (in Huddersfield there isn’t really anywhere larger).
Another bonus is that Brandon is no pastiche of his former self, and Spear of Destiny are no glorified covers band; they still release albums and they are still decent records. Although I wasn’t a huge Spear of Destiny fan in the day it has to be said their back catalogue has stood up well to the tests of time. Listening to their track Micky, I reflected it was really only the name of the young hero and that he was fed up of his “city and guilds” (an early apprenticeship) where I detected the sands of time.
The build up to the show wasn’t particularly auspicious with a somewhat random set of atmosphere killing songs while we waited for our guys. The 80’s theme tune to ITV’s This Is Your Life immediately prior was a particularly miss hit choice.
Still once Spear of Destiny came on stage we were off. I was pleased to spot a former New Model Army friend, Adrian Portas being as solid as ever on guitar, and a long term Brandon collaborator since as long ago as 1980 Stan Stammers on bass. Freelance drummer Phil Martini makes up the four piece.
The songs offered a good mix of the original bangers and the new tracks from this year’s release. I won’t claim to be the biggest Spear of Destiny fan but everything I might have expected to hear was given a run through. Likewise the half dozen songs or so from the new album Tontine fitted into the set well, although I’ve always found Spear of Destiny a little uneven in terms of pace and bangers. Just when you were expecting a killer track they turned the tone down; the little teasers.
To end for the encore it just had to be Liberator (a 1984 hit for the band), and the sell out crowd risked their hip replacements for the moves on the rammed dance floor. The place had both sold out and the older crowd were bigger than they used to be. Medievalists from the new album is the stand out track for me, and it was good to hear the band get heavy on us to do the song. Kirk Brandon’s voice took a little while to warm up, but when he was there it sounded just as it did of old.
Brandon is taking his Spear of Destiny band around various venues including the wonderful Trades club in Hebden Bridge on the 27th September, and then there’s a spell of his acoustic sets, including Manchester Gorilla on November 2nd and Leeds Brudenell on the 3rd, and then Theatre of Hate back at the Huddersfield Parish on the 8th December and the Manchester Academy on December 15th