Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

Time for some 80’s Pop nostalgia and to see how my latter schooldays crush and poster girl Clare Grogan has fared in the 35 years since I last saw her perform live on the Altered Images ‘Pinky Blue’ tour. There are different layers of fandom with our Clare, for men of a certain age it was the quintessential girl next door charm shown in Gregory’s Girl, for others Dave Lister’s unrequited love interest Kristine Kochanski in Red Dwarf, maybe even singer Niamh Connolly in one episode of Father Ted. None of that is anything to do with a post punk pop songstress, but there is nothing but strong and loyal affection shown for this Glasgow girl, and before her live show even starts I’m able to get a very brief audience in the backstage area of my favourite independent venue – The Leeds Brudenell Social Club. Clare is in fine form joking as I snap a quick photo of her sitting on a sofa at the back of the Community Room. She has lost none of that sparkle and now at almost 56 years old is still this small bundle of effervescent energy. Outside the packed audience is waiting patiently as her much younger all female band are building up the applause before she takes to the stage to the jangly opening sounds of ‘I Could Be Happy’.

Clare Grogan

Clare Grogan is still a non-stop talking, singing, dancing and ass shaking star on stage (and screen, and radio, and even books now). Hitting the floor with 3 big Altered Images hits one after the other could have been a big error on her part but she had plenty of tricks left up her sleeve and the banter coming out of her mouth between songs was worthy of a stand-up comedy set on her own.

Audience here were a mixture of aging post punks, plenty of Siouxsie Soux T Shirts and talking of great gigs from the past and of classic legendary producer Martin Rushent. Nostalgia runs deep here in Leeds and when the opening synth sounds of ‘Don’t Talk to Me About Love’ start, the years wash away, and the party can really start.

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Clare plays the role of naughty Auntie out on the town with a group of nieces, showing them a good time. Particularly the drummer tonight who is in charge of making sure Grogan doesn’t “Talk too much Shite” in-between the songs and keeps starting tracks early which results in a joking “Not Yet” scream from Auntie Clare.

After the 3rd hit track (See Those Eyes) we have some really interesting stuff coming out, a cover of Siouxsie’s ‘Insects’ and then a bizarre choice of the Ting Ting’s ‘That’s Not My Name’, because apparently, they had recently covered ‘Happy Birthday’. Grogan laments the highs and lows of now being a mother of a teenager who introduces her to new music, recently her daughter took her to see Taylor Swift and as Swift presented a positive image to young females that made her want to cover one of her songs, the cutesy ‘Shake it Off’ followed which was lost on most of the audience as they had enjoyed the more darker side.

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Thankfully it wasn’t long before we had another taste of the very early stuff, in fact their first ever track that was picked up by the likes of John Peel when they played Futurama in Leeds way back when. ‘Dead Pop Stars’ is still a gritty dirty tune, the closest you will get to the Banshees and delivered with a snarl and lots of shaking of hair. It’s still a brilliant earthy number and a shock to the system for those just expecting ‘Happy Birthday’ style schmaltz.

Inevitably we have to have – that song, and even Clare herself admits that she has “learnt to like it”, particularly for what it did in terms of launching a general increase in popularity for the band, in the process though becoming an albatross around her neck for the rest of her performing career.

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‘Happy Birthday’ dedicated to someone whose name she forgot but remembered that it was his birthday on Burns Night, ended the celebration and with a “sorry we can’t do any more songs because we don’t know anymore!” message, they take their bows and leave. A fairly short set but great fun and the Scots chanteuse is away for a glass of something sparkly to match the personality – re-emerging at the merch desk to sign autographs.

Mostly resigned to the 80’s rewind festivals, tonight proved that she could actually tour more venues of this size and bigger to bring the post punk reminiscence variety show to other UK cities, I hope it happens soon and next time please bring Siouxsie Soux along for the ride – what a show that would be!

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SETLIST (Possibly not in the right order):
I Could Be Happy, Don’t Talk To Me About Love, See Those Eyes, Don’t Give Up Girl, Insects, That’s Not My Name, Change Of Heart, Shake It Off, Dead Pop Stars, Bring Me Closer, Happy Birthday

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