Thomas sat down almost immediately with a great exhalation of air and smoke, as if someone had just punctured him, and the band struck up Texas Overture.
This is actually a piece of "living history" that you are reading folks, as it's the first Incendiary review from the newly refurbished Patronaat. And, of course, with that exciting fact in mind, I am duty-bound to report to you what I (in my humble reviewer's opinion) think of these new architectural developments. Hey! Let's not beat about the bush here! I think it's great! I really, really like the bar for a start. A concrete and glass affair that gives off the impression of hanging out in a stylish multi-storey car park (a conceit much beloved of our modern architects and designers it seems), it has numerous advantages. The bar is a nice long one and, whilst you await your drinks at it, you can look down through the reinforced glass (or Perspex) floor onto the slaves in the kitchens below.
The huge glass windows and walls near the entrance means you can watch everyone entering the club with a haughty disdain. An area at the back, seemingly decked out like Eno's room on the cover of Here Come The Warm Jets is a nice contrast. Before the gig we sat there whilst Pere Ubu's guitarist Tom Herman carried on a morose conversation about Kevin Ayers to a fan.
Once the coats had been dropped off in an area not too dissimilar to a basement section of a town centre car park, we climbed the stairs and visited the toilets. The lavatories are placed at the front of the building, with the wash rooms themselves visible from the street. The architect obviously had it in mind to present a veritable dumb show of drinking punters eventually migrating up the stairs to perform a very public round of ablutions. Still, from the inside, the view over Haarlem is quite commanding. It did feel like school bog though.
The school assembly hall feeling is reinforced just outside the main door where wood panelling contrasts quite pleasingly with the concrete stairs. Two big doors lead you into a very open main hall, and a large stage that nevertheless felt very intimate. The ceiling in the hall is very high and gives one a feeling of being under the stars at times, (or maybe that was just the glitter ball).
The gig itself was relatively well populated; lots of middle aged Vivienne Westwood types were in attendance, coupled with their obvious Sociology teacher partners/boy friends. Mild eccentricities abounded. One gentleman contentedly smoked a pipe, oblivious to all around him. I rejoiced in this for a good twenty minutes.
Still, eccentricities were expected tonight, because art-punk heroes Pere Ubu were in town for a one off Dutch gig. On the band came, quietly and meticulously preparing themselves. On David Thomas shuffled a huge bear of a man, a fag gripped in one giant paw, a set of notes clasped with the other. Thomas sat down almost immediately with a great exhalation of air and smoke, as if someone had just punctured him, and the band struck up Texas Overture. A huge screen played a series of graphics of Texas fields. Thomas stood up, and lurched off into a long, spoken rant. He sat down again and shakily, almost painfully lit another cigarette.
There is a peculiar kind of magic to Pere Ubu. They don't have to try to do anything it seems, other than play their strange music. They certainly seemed content to do what they do, regardless of us. All their anger and sharpness seems to be internalised, as seen when Thomas decided to have a mini rant on stage during a brilliant version of Slow Walking Daddy. His back turned to us; he gave off in all directions except the one where we, the audience were. The band seemed resigned to this and gave whatever Thomas asked for sonically. Thomas, seemingly overcome by a huge and sudden sense of ennui, sat down again and lit another ciggy.
One other thing to note is that Pere Ubu rock, and rock hard. They might be classed as "artistic", but the band knows that the music they play is strangely catchy and bloody dancey. Wheelhouse was just fabulous and Electricity was brilliant and intense. The highlight for me was a wonderful rendition of the night's closing number, We Have The Technology. The song definitely gained from being performed live, the twiddly nervousness of the recorded version was replaced by a lowering, prowling confidence which, in turn, contrasted beautifully with Thomas's melancholy delivery.
Once the song was finished, the band immediately walked to the front of the stage and started flogging their wares, a long queue forming in front of a curiously transformed, wisecracking, jovial David Thomas. Strange... Still that is the norm with Pere Ubu I suppose.
Words: Richard Foster.