BREVIEW: Dead Kennedys @ O2 Academy – 23/06/15

Dead Kennedys (Circa 2008)

Words by Jay Airey

Slagerij, the only support act for tonight, are a three piece Punk/Ska band with a cheeky sense of humour.

In an atmospheric start, Slagerij burst onto the stage with a fantastic show of energy; the O2 Academy crowd quickly warming to them. And although there are no more than a couple of dancers throughout their set, towards the end a cover of ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)’ goes down well enough.deadkennedys-logo

In the time between the support and main act, the crowd seems to triple in size; there is a growing sense of anticipation. And although missing the original front man, Jello, today’s incarnation of the Dead Kennedys can still justify the name – with East Bay Ray and Klaus Flouride both present, and Ron ‘Skip’ Greer fitting in well on vocals.

Dead Kennedys come to the stage without as much ‘in your face’ as Slagerij, but certainly with their own style – kicking off tonight’s set with their cover of ‘Rawhide’. Punk enough. And by the time we hit the third song, ‘Jock-o-Rama’, the link with the crowd is complete – even after a short speech on the superiority of American over English football.

By now the pit has gotten into full swing, literally. As befitting the occasion there are more fists than elbows being used, and the temperature in the small room at the O2 Academy is rising. The age gap between those old fans watching and the new fans dancing (with their aforementioned fists in the aforementioned pit) is clear, although there are still a few originals getting respectably stuck in.

‘Kill the Poor’ is followed by a version of ‘MTV Get off the Air’ that has been updated for the Internet age, to ‘MP3 Get off the Web’. But I can’t help thinking a complaint about the royalty free exchange of music is a little controversial, considering the band’s Punk origins and the meaning behind the original song.

Then back to the high energy classics with ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’, accompanied by a 500ml bottle of water sprayed into the crowd from ‘Skip’… nice touch. Harmless, but adding a little sense of danger.

“I need a break, I’m too old for Punk Rock…unfortunately, so are you!” was the next introduction from the Dead Kennedys‘ current vocalist; it is true that many here are revisiting their youth, on stage and off. And no doubt a number of those in the O2 Academy tonight who used to shave their heads for style, no longer need to do that quite so often.

‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ includes some audience participation; after a short training session, we join in by singing the second half of the song title when prompted. Then a final favourite is squeezed in before Dead Kennedys leave the stage, ‘California – Uber Alles’ also has the crowd singing loudly.

o2-academy-logoThen, as expected, after a few minutes the band return togive us more; a version of ‘Bleed For Me’ that includes snippets of ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘Viva Las Vegas’. This is quickly segued into the anticipated (couldn’t imagine it would not feature tonight) ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, before a second, unexpected, return to the stage adds ‘Chemical Warfare’ (with a few bars of “Sweet Home Alabama”) to the list.

Dead Kennedys (with whomever screaming down the mic) gave Birmingham an excellent show tonight. For me, it was a chance to relive my 1980s. For the 17 year old that was with me, it was an introduction to an important Punk band he’d previously only heard about.

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