Live Review: Ruts DC / The Professionals – The Ritz, Manchester, UK, 13th February 2019

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Ruts DC / The Professionals

The Ritz, Manchester, UK - 13th February 2019

It usually takes something special to drag me out on a cold Wednesday night in Manchester, but as tonight sees the return of Ruts DC, who are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their seminal debut album,The Crack, I am course in attendance to hear one of punks most influential albums played, if you have any doubt about that statement you can take it up with Henry Rollins who has consistently championed the album. As an added bonus Ruts DC are joined on the tour by The Professionals, all of which adds up to an impressive bill that is a precursor to the festival season kicking into gear next month.

The professionals kick off the evening with a raw Join The Professionals, that marks a excellent start to an evening from a band that still sports one of the class of ’76 in drummer Paul Cook. Their set veers between the original albums and their most recent release, What In The World, it’s a testament to their latest album that the material blends into the set perfectly. Frontman Tom Spencer fills the gap left by their former frontman and ex pistol Steve Jones perfectly, with Chris McCormack, formerly of 3 Colours Red, and original bass player Paul Myers rounding out an impressive line up that has warmed the crowd up nicely.  There is a nod to band’s origins with the Sex PistolsSilly Thing appearing early in the set and by the time The Professionals reach the end of their set The Ritz is starting to fill up nicely ahead of the appearance of Ruts DC.

Members of both bands are wandering amiably through the crowd throughout the night along with faces from Manchester’s punk scene, both famous and infamous, who are in attendance tonight to hear The Crack played live. Ruts DC’s appearance is unsurprisingly preceded by a selection of reggae and dub before a spoken word introduction, that references most of The Ruts and Ruts DC‘s output, echoes round the venue ahead of blue lights flashing and police sirens ringing out, everyone present knows exactly what is coming next and Ruts DC don’t disappoint as they launch into their classic track, and the The Crack‘s opening track, Babylons Burning.

Punk classics like Dope For Guns, SUS, Something That I Said, You’re Just A…, Society, Back Biter, Out Of Order and Human Punk mix with the early post punk punk of It Was Cold and the dub of Jah War, every track is delivered in the style of the original album taking the crowd on a trip back to the tumultuous days of 1979, an era that was marked by a shift to the right in politics and the rise of the far right, along with a fierce resistance in the punk scene, every element of which is reflected forty years later, something that keeps The Ruts soundtrack and legacy as alive, vital and relevant today as it was forty years ago.

The appeal of their opening set is for me not their best known singles, it’s the chance to hear the album tracks that rarely appear in their set list, and they deliver these with a fury that indicates Ruts DC enjoyed revisiting the album as much as the crowds that are populating venues on The Crack tour. The second set brings a selection of the tracks that came after The Crack and from their critically acclaimed 2016 album, Music Must Destroy. For me the highlights of tonight was a stunning West One (Shine On Me), that was dedicated to the late Malcom Owen, a grinding and menacing In A Rut and a driven Psychic Attack, the single that for many announced the return of Ruts DC. They return for a final encore of H Eyes, Love In Vain and a frantic Staring At The Rude Boys that brings a faultless set to a close.

Despite an excellent set by Ruts DC the atmosphere for tonight initially seemed a little flat, whether this is the choice of venue, the midweek hump day show, the lack of alcohol due to many of the crowds weekday commitments, the unusually poor sound or just the fact that The Ritz can be unpredictable venue when it comes to the atmosphere at live shows, is something I cant answer, but this is no criticism of Ruts DC who delivered a perfect set that was mainly populated by the two albums that bookend their four decade long existence.

Despite the loss of key members Malcolm Own and Paul Fox, Ruts DC have continued with their two original members, Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy, with the addition of Leigh Heggarty, and in Music Must Destroy they released their finest album since The Crack and on the basis of tonight it seems they have no intention of slowing down as they will be playing across the UK’s festivals over Spring and Summer, meaning that this won’t be the last time I catch them this year. The Ruts hold a unique place in punk history, and if nothing else I can’t think of many other bands from that era where I find myself thinking I wished they’d played a few more tracks from their latest album.

The Punk Site review of the The Crack can be read here

The Ruts DC website is located here

The Professionals website can be found here

Photography by Steve White and you can visit his Flickr site here,
You can click on any of Steve’s photos to view a slide show of the images