Geldof gets the Rats back together in Dublin

Boomtown Rats give energised performance at Vicar Street

Bob Geldof pictured at the One Young World summit in South Africa two weeks ago.

Bob Geldof pictured at the One Young World summit in South Africa two weeks ago.

Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 09:16

As midlife crises go, this one is loud, proud and lots of fun. At 62, Bob Geldof has decided to get his old punk band back together, nearly 30 years after they formed in south Dublin.

He also recently announced that he had signed up to be the first pop star in space – dunno which is the crazier idea, Geldof in spacesuit or Geldof in a snakeskin suit, stalking the stage of Vicar Street and performing such buzz-saw Rats hits as Lookin’ After No 1 and She’s So Modern.

But here he is, with three other original Rats – guitarist Gary Roberts, bassist Pete Briquette and drummer Simon Crowe, each looking every bit the stocky middle-aged ex-punk. Johnnie Fingers and Gerry Cott are absent, but Geldof’s regular keyboardist Alan Dunn manages fine without pyjamas, and lead guitarist Darren Beale has the Rats’ mix of punk, blues and rock ‘n’ roll down to a T.

This may be a nostalgia trip for those who remember the Rats at Moran’s pub, but it’s also a reminder that the band weren’t just a bunch of snotty punks made good.

There’s a strong rhythm ‘n’ blues streak to such songs as Joey’s On The Street Again and When the Night Comes – the influences of Springsteen and the Stones. Mary of the Fourth Form is expanded into a sweaty, blues epic, Geldof temporarily turning into John Lee Hooker from Blackrock.

As the gig progresses, and Geldof gets settled back into his old frontman role, he becomes more energised, taking off his jacket and giving us a glimpse into the wiry, angry young rocker we used to know so well – and a glimpse of his man-boobs. Somehow, though, he manages to dig deep and pull out some of that old anger. He slams Facebook and Google for “mining our souls” before launching into Someone’s Looking at You, and his intro to Banana Republic suggests he hasn’t changed his sour opinion of the old homeland.

Geldof may be singing from the vantage point of a rich, successful businessman, knight of the realm and player on the world stage, and his assertion that the Rats songs “could have been written yesterday” sounds a bit clichéd, but when the band rip into Rat Trap, you can almost believe him. Just change one letter – 50p into 50c – and the song applies just as appropriately to modern-day Dublin.

When the Rats burst on the scene all those years ago, Geldof shocked with his disrespectful attitude to Irish institutions, then set about putting his money where his mouth was to try and change the world. Perhaps he’s earned the right to grow old disgracefully.