Both recordings start with the air raid sirens intro and then as the ‘all clear’ sounds the audience cheer as the band emerge into semi-darkness in front of the ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ type barriers.
“We’re The Clash Jimmy!” announces Joe and instead of the by now normal low key opener of Broadway, (the opening songs are reversed giving a much more high octane start and retained for the remaining nights) the band launch into One More Time. The stage lights flash on with the great power chord over drum and bass intro and an outstandingly consistent Clash performance kicks off.
Like the rest of the gig there’s no extended improvisation or inspired Joe rants but there is a focussed power and total musical togetherness. The edge of your seats near chaos of the punk years has been long replaced by an assured authority of greater musicianship, which is arguably no less exciting and surely no less enjoyable. Joe shouts mid-song “All together, push, push, PUSH!” as much to his band mates in encouragement as to the audience.
The previous night, until the encores, Joe sounded unusually uninspired and uncommitted but tonight he’s totally focussed with intent throughout and produces a terrific vocal performance on Broadway. Mick too unlike the 21st wants to play guitar and plays with focus and invention. His new splintering guitar sound is to the fore on “Know Your Rights all 3 of them!” It sounds much more like the finished product now rather than a song in development.
Another new song next, Should I Stay or Should I Go and again these 81 performances have a vitality lacking in many of the 82 performances of the song. Mick sings “because I’m honour bound you won’t find me hanging ‘round” which would be later changed as presumably not rock’n’roll enough! Joe’s only vocal contribution here is a scream, not the “go now” shouts on the chorus like the night before.
A fine Guns of Brixton next, the recordings revealing the detail in the arrangement and Mick adds lots of splintering guitar fills (aka Know Your Rights) on a strong Train In Vain.
A very enjoyable Magnificent Seven has none of the improvisation of the May/June 81 shows but the playing is just hard as nails and super-tight. It ‘s more extended than other Lyceum performances. Derek’s tape in particular showcases Topper’s terrific drumming which like his band mate’s contributions tonight are focussed and inventive. It’s just missing a Strummer adlibbed rant to be truly magnificent!
“Going back in time” announces Joe before an excellent White Man In Hammersmith Palais which again is not extended but is exceptional through the total committed professionalism of the performance from a group at the top of their game. Joe is enjoying Mick’s playing tonight “let that guitar play boy!” he says over the instrumental ending.
A very strong Clash City Rockers is followed by “Elevator goooooooooing up!” and the band race through 100 seconds of an impressive Koka Kola. “Welcome Mr Topper Headon” but Ivan Meets GI Joe whilst OK is as usual the lowest point of the gig; a song that just does not translate well to the stage.
Paul’s bass is largely lost on the recordings but is audible on Junco Partner which again showcases Topper’s invention and virtuosity. A tape turnover on both tapes only loses part of Joe’s intro to Charlie Don’t Surf which restarts with “first the helicopters are coming in”. The song begins with Topper’s repeated drum pattern then Mick’s light guitar fills which build to a crescendo. Again no extemporisation from Joe but the performance is tight as hell. An edit on the alternate tape at the end of the song cuts out Joe’s intro to The Leader; “This is for those of you old enough to vote or lived in the same area for 3 months” Mick’s great guitar intro is upfront and clear as is Topper’s terrific drum roll intro, “yeah, yeah, yeah” shouts Joe clearly enjoying the band’s performance. “Topper!” shouts Joe and his drums thunder in crescendo and the band slam into a pumped up I Fought The Law.
On a night of highlights Ghetto Defendant is very strong; Paul’s harmonica rings out clear over the intro and he continues playing longer than usual. A new song which has been honed from repeated live performances into almost the finished product. “Hospitalisation” repeats Joe by way of explanation after the first verse.
Mick’s teased out crescendo over Topper’s s repeated drum pattern heralds a powerful Somebody Got Murdered, and the high energy run through to the end of the main set. Mick’s playing here again demonstrates his ability to come up almost night after night (if he’s in the mood) with variation after variation on the intro to the song. The section where Joe comes in is especially effective here and he literally barks and screams “murder” over the ending
London Calling is intro-ed by a classic Strummer scream and he’s on top vocal form throughout a pumped up performance, whooping, crying, and hollering. Joe starts to freestyle near the end of an impressive Clampdown but there’s no inspiration but Topper’s drum attack carries the song through to its conclusion.
An ear splitting Joe scream kicks off Radio Clash, again super tight. The main set ends with their new single which would finally be released a few weeks later!
The recordings capture the audience calling the band back for the first encore but the alternative source cuts out Joe’s intro “This next one is entitled Hitler has only got one ball!” and then the band slam into a pumped up Safe European Home. When the music drops down Joe repeats “When Rudi came down to London town the SPG came and they beat him down, when Rudi came to London town the SPG got him and they beat him down” and then the band bring it back up again very impressively. Bankrobber next is excellent with some great inventive guitar fills from Mick and the reggae continues with an outstanding Revolution Rock.. Chris described this performance as “a vicious, minor key revamp of Revolution Rock” and it’s certainly a highlight helped by its rarity in a Clash set. Topper’s drumming is again a delight here as is Mick’s guitar playing and Joe responding to his band mates performance delivers another great vocal performance. Another tape turnover at the same point on both sources loses the start of Career Opportunities.. Another exceptional performance, the band clearly enjoying themselves and Topper adds some extra drum fills. The band leave the stage with the audience roaring for more.
The second equally excellent encore starts with Joe screaming “Topper” and the band kick into Armagideon Time. Mick adds his now customary ear splitting scream and Paul’s bass line is clear on both recordings. It’s another excellent inventive band performance demonstrating their almost telepathic togetherness. “Now if you don’t mind we’d like to present the history of graffiti as seen by the cat burglar himself Mr Futura 2000”. The band support Futura’s Graffiti Rap with added inventiveness and then at the end Topper segues the drum pattern into the start of Complete Control to terrific effect. The brilliant performance encourages someone from the audience up onto the stage to add extra vocals to the ending. After a short pause the band launch into a thrilling edge of your seats charge through Brand New Cadillac, London’s Burning and finish the concert with Janie Jones; Joe and the band on fire throughout.
These recordings provide ample evidence that The Clash in late 81 were still moving forward musically and despite increasing internal problems could if caught live on the right night still be truly phenomenal.