By Steven Roberts…….
Legendary Irish rockers the Boomtown Rats played to a large crowd at the Eastern Mediterranean University sports field on Friday 21st April.. The event was the 7th annual ‘Rock n’EMU’ concert, admission was free, and it was open to students and local residents.
The evening started with a performance by local group the Mağusa Müzik Band. They were a large band of good musicians who played a number of well known cover versions from well known artists (including Bob Marley and Osibisa) very well. They got the interest going, and warmed the crowd up well for the main event.
After a suitable interval, The Boomtown Rats took to the stage and powered straight into their first number, followed immediately by the catchy “Like Clockwork”. It is only when I heard the first few numbers live that I realised how the power of the tight rhythm section of drummer Simon Crowe and bass player Pete Briquette provide the foundation for the whole performance.
Singer Bob Geldof, now aged 65, showed amazing energy and ran from side to side of the stage while singing “(She’s Gonna) Do You In” then spoke to the crowd for the first time. He denounced the culture of the surveillance society as an introduction to the band’s powerful “Always Someone Looking at You”, one of the highlights of their set.
Bob Geldof then reminded the crowd that the band were from Dublin, another divided island. “We’re from Ireland” he said. “We don’t like nationalism – it kills people!” This was a lead into “Banana Republic” which denounced the role of Priests in their ‘sceptic isle’
(He also denounced Erdogan and Putin which seemed to go down well with the audience!).
At one point Bob asked the audience the question. “How long does it take to get from Larnaca to Famagusta?” My immediate thought was “just over an hour, Bob,” but of course his question was rhetorical, and he replied “40 years!” He then urged people to ignore politicians, imams and priests and unite.
Following this the band stormed into a fast paced version of “She’s so Modern” before the thoughtful and poignant “I Don’t like Mondays.” and after two more numbers closed the set with two hits form 1977/8, “Looking after no 1” and “Rat Trap”. They returned for an encore with “Diamond Smiles.”
There was a good crowd present, difficult to estimate numbers but several thousand. The majority were probably EMU students, yet they seemed to know the songs and were a very enthusiastic audience. Many were waving mobile ‘phones and cameras, so I’m sure there are loads of ‘photos in circulation. I must admit it feels a bit strange when you are one of the oldest people at a gig like this, but comforting to know that at least I’m younger than all the band members!
The Boomtown Rats formed in the mid-1970s and broke up in 1986. In 2013, four of the original members reformed the band, Pete Briquette (bass), Simon Crowe (drums), Gary Roberts (lead guitar) and Bob Geldof (vocals). Two others, Johnnie Fingers (keyboards) and Gerry Cott (guitarist) did not rejoin, but the band have added new musicians to stay as a six piece.
I’ve seen other ‘historic’ bands like The Animals, Barclay James Harvest, and both versions of Wishbone Ash, but all of these have one original member, and whilst they sound good, it is not quite the real thing. However the Boomtown Rats really are the band you expect, and I have a feeling they are playing better today than they ever did.
The success of this event, and the Deep Purple concert a few years ago shows there is an audience for top acts on this island. Let’s hope it is not too long before others come and perform in Cyprus.
For those folk who could not be there to see The Boomtown Rats in Famagusta, we show below a great video recording placed on Youtube by Iain Jordan.