Tuesday 11 December 2018

The Boomtown Rats in the long grass of Marlay Park

The Boomtown Rats may no longer frighten the State and the Church like they once did but they still have plenty to say

Retro or not, Geldof and his band are always a joy to watch on stage
Retro or not, Geldof and his band are always a joy to watch on stage
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Bob Geldof has been banging on - as only Bob Geldof can - about some great new Boomtown Rats songs for a year. At 2am on April 8 last year when I walked Bob back to his hotel after the Rats had headlined Rock Against Homelessness in aid of Focus at the Olympia Theatre, he said he was working on new songs for both a new solo album and a new Rats' album.

We can only hope that tonight at Marlay Park, when his band supports Queen and Adam Lambert, that we get to hear some of the aforesaid great new songs from the imminent new Rats album, Mega, their first since The Long Grass from 1984. The tracks will initially be released over a series of four EPs. How very old school.

Retro or not, the still-sneery-at-66 punk rock King Snake of Blackrock College that is Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof and his band are always a joy to watch onstage, even more so tonight with their Dr Feelgood-ish larking in the park.

Unapologetically refusing to go away, the firebrand who once upon a time scared the bejaysus out of the State and the Church and his Boomtown Rats are as important a part of Irish music history as Thin Lizzy or Van Morrison in my humble opinion.

Therefore, to stand in a field and hear, and sing along to Rat Trap ("Just down past the gasworks, by the meat factory door, the five lamp boys were coming on strong"!), Lookin' After Number 1, and I Don't Like Mondays is a pure privilege.

The latter was "surely the only chart-topping pop song about a school shooting", as Neil McCormick pointed out in The Telegraph, referring to the January 29, 1979, incident at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego when 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer murdered two adults and injured eight children and a police officer because, as she told police, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day".

Other tracks likely to liven up the day at Marlay Park include, of course, Bob the Gob singing as Adolf Hitler on (I Never Loved) Eva Braun, Mary Of The Fourth Form, and the official Ireland-lacerating Banana Republic.

The Rats' second album A Tonic for the Troops from 1978 is one of the great all-time Irish rock albums but Irish critics are too busy banging on about Microdisney and the like to give it a thought.

Geldof's punk cred and his often angry shouty existential pop music gets dismissed because he is now an elder-statesman Victor Meldrew, a grumpy grandpa global campaigner who put together Live Aid, Live 8 and cosied-up to Prez George W. Bush aboard Air Force One for the people of Africa.

"So, The Boomtown Rats' legacy?" he mused to me last year. "In the teeth of it, a couple of tunes. That's it. Had it a cultural impact? Don't know. Had it a function somehow sensing the mood? Definitely. Do the people who were around at that time associate their youth with the Rats' music? Probably. Does that mean anything to their contemporaries? Probably not. And they are probably sick of people going on about that time because they live in a radically different Ireland. A much better Ireland," Geldof said, adding that every taxi driver thinks the same things about him. "It doesn't matter whether they're true or not. That I ripped up f**king John Travolta's picture on Top of the Pops. I didn't. That I told Thatcher to f**k off. I didn't. And that I told six billion people on television to 'Give us your f**king money now!'" And? "And I did!" King Rat laughed.

"I don't live in the f**king past. I am more concerned with what I am going to have to have for my tea tonight."

The Boomtown Rats could conceivably show with their very long awaited new album that their qualities as a band are significantly more than just nostalgia - as tonight's performance will doubtless attest, too, in the long grass of Marlay Park. Rat's entertainment.

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