What do you have to do, as a frontman of a punk rock group, to receive a standing ovation from a sold-out venue in Belgrade, when trying to sneak your way out to the backstage? Simply, you need to be Wattie Buchan. The man is much more than a legend of a genre. That title sort of fell into his lap, but it is absolutely deserved. Punk titans have too often failed to put their money where their mouth were. They went soft or completely switched direction towards more of an elaborate criticism. Not only has that approach mellowed the impact of their messages, but it also left them open for misinterpretation and, unfortunately, to mainstream acceptance which, in turn, lead to them losing all the credibility of torchbearers of rebellion.
But not Wattie. He’s not alone in this, but this text regards his latest excursion to my home country, so let’s focus on Mr. Buchan. He did receive a standing ovation, believe it or not. Okay, nobody was sitting down, but they all turned towards the man sprinting to the showers five meters above. His face at that point was absolutely priceless. Stopped in his tracks, what he must’ve felt… I cannot even imagine. And that’s a man who should avoid supersized emotions at all cost. Seriously, if any of us survived half of what’s invaded his body, we would likely not be able to even lay down on that stage, let alone perform such energetic punk with all the heart to give. Hell, would any of us even survive such health issues?
After witnessing last night, I feel rather confident that it will be Keith Richards first.
The Exploited headed for the sure thing, they’ve gone for the tried and tested tracks. Punk classics one by one in a long line of over four decades. Granted, nobody expected new tracks since there were none in the past two decades. But the chaos that ensues once the quartet takes to the stage loses none of its effect due to that fact.
Better part of the audience was already well-heated from the masterful execution of local heroes Vox Populi, who once again took no prisoners. Their own vocalist, who can easily be proclaimed as Serbian Wattie (the image, the passion and longevity on the scene included) actually subbed for Wattie in Belgrade in 2017 for a while. Plus, Vox Populi was not the opening act to legendary Scots for the first time. They fit though, performing the similar style of pure and utterly powerful punk. It was a shame that most of the crowd spent their time in the foyer of Dom Omladine while they performed, but it says more about those “punks” than the band itself. It didn’t matter to the band who ran through their biggest hits adding a few novelties to the set. The strength of their music was invitation enough for the madness to begin in the frontline of old punk.
The Exploited opened with “Let’s Start a War” and went ahead for the next hour and a half pausing only for Wattie to joke about with those in the front row and announce a couple of songs. It seemed as if he needn’t bother, since there was hardly a soul in there who could not recognize hits like “Punk’s Not Dead”, “Beat the Bastards”, “Troops of Tomorrow”, “Disorder”… Expectedly, “Sex and Violence” welcomed a number of fans onstage. “U.S.A.” was, naturally, welcomed in Serbia with special devotion to its lyrics and their meaning.
But that’s all beside the point. It’s a regular occurrence of a band doing what they do best. The crowd in Belgrade had the opportunity to welcome aboard the new members of The Exploited, Jo Oom behind the drums and Steve Campbell on six strings. The energy and involvement in the show by them both had me convinced they were born for the respective roles. Rob Halkett is a long time asset of this unstoppable horde and almost kindred to Mr. Buchan. All together, they are a punk machinery.
It’s the way they deliver. It’s the attitude, first and foremost Wattie’s. The quartet doesn’t act a gang of teenagers. They actually are teenagers. Hell, we saw Wattie huffing and puffing a few times, catching his breath, but once caught… Run for cover! Off stage, I hadn’t witnessed so don’t take my word for it but extremely trusted sources claim these are right scallywags. If true (and I have no reason to suspect) it would complete the image of a band who not only helped build punk, kept it alive, but also, despite being one of music’s greats, still keeps the middle finger up the noses of those running the system.
P. S. No photos this time. You should’ve been there.