The Tubes @ Arena, Birmingham – 14 November 2017

San Francisco punk heroes The Tubes are celebrating their return to the UK with a string of headline club dates plus five arena shows supporting Alice Cooper.

Playing third fiddle to legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper,with The Mission making up the bill, The Tubes over-the-top theatrical visual live performance is minimised for an Arena. It doesn’t stop the costume changes for vocalist Fee Waybill though, starting the show as a carnival barker for the 1983 hit ‘She’s a Beauty’ – bolstered by the early days of MTV – the endearing lunacy continues with ‘TV Is King’ and ‘Mr. Hate’.

It’s a respectable and appreciative turn-out so early on. I imagine many of those here were around in the days when both The Tubes and Alice Cooper first made a mark with their outlandish rock theatre and larger-than-life fictitious characters. Forty-odd years since then, it’s pretty much business as usual, as Waybill is keen to promote the recent release of ‘The A&M Years’ a box-set of the band’s first five studio albums.

A short, but greatest hits set includes ‘What Do You Want from Life?’ from the 1975 self-titled debut album, and ‘Prime Time’ off of the concept album ‘Remote Control’, released four years later. It all comes from a long-time back and way out there, but is delivered in a self-assured package of continued enthusiasm and charisma.

There’s a sweet rendition of the ballad ‘Love’s a Mystery’ with a scintillating guitar solo from Roger Steen, before Waybill returns to stage as the platform-booted, drugged out, glam rock star Quay Lewd. As probably the most deranged of all his characters, he is met with delight, by an audience eager to chant the chorus to the classic ‘White Punks On Dope’ and rock out until the end with ‘Talk To Ya Later’.

Tonight may have been a cut-down version in an impersonal setting, but to see a band for the first time – over four decades since their inception – and walk away with a feeling that you have witnessed something unique, is like The Tubes themselves; a great surprise, pretty cool and fairly mad.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

The Tubes