Gig Review: The Chameleons at Manchester Academy

Manchester post-punk band rolled back the years to deliver a masterful performance for their ‘resurrection’ tour, 22 years after performing at Manchester Academy.

The Chameleons, originating in Middleton in 1981, are known for their dark, atmospheric sound and introspective lyrics, as they took to the stage on Saturday, 17th December.  

Lead singer, bassist and original member Mark Burgess were joined by the returning original guitarist Reg Smithies. 

The punk pioneering band released six studio albums and an EP, along with many Peel sessions, live records and compilations in a career spanning four decades.

The suspense was palpable.

As the seminal post-punk outfit entered the stage, the crowd erupted to see their cult heroes enter with Burgess having their second studio album, What Does Anything Mean? Basically, painted on his face.

Mark Burgess with the album What Does Anything Mean? Basically painted on his face

Despite having to reschedule their tour in February due to COVID-19 and battling through the flu this time round, the band lit up the Academy to deliver a fantastic performance.

As the introduction of A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days rang across the venue Manchester was firmly under their spell and in true punk fashion, Mark Burgess remained firmly rooted to the spot as he oozed confidence and attitude, it was all about their music.

A break in performance leads to the frontman addressing his audience: “We are not in the past and we’re not in the future.

“Either way, the only fucking thing that you can say with absolute certainty is you’re right here right now.”

Swiftly followed was an exceptionally passionate performance of Caution which then broke into Transmission by fellow Manchester post-punk giants Joy Division.

Manchester was under the trance of Smithies’ intricate rhythm and guitar muting whilst Burgess’ distinctive and emotive voice was as powerful as ever.

The band left the crowd without a moment to breathe as fan favourites Souls in Isolation, Swamp Thing, and Second Skin all played consecutively. 

An extended play from Souls in Isolation saw the lyrics to The Beatles’, Elanor Rigby and Manchester giants The Smiths, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out ring throughout the venue which was responded to by euphoric cheers.

With the end of the set in his sight, Burgess hoisted himself into the crowd to embrace his adoring fans.

The Chameleons lead singer embraces his adoring fans

The driving ominous beat to Don’t Fall was well received by the audience as the chorus was roared back to the band to seal off a memorable night for those in attendance.

They managed to turn a sub-zero climate outside the venue, into a sweaty and electric atmosphere, perfectly reminiscent of a 1970s punk performance.

The group’s music has aged remarkably well, and still has the power to captivate and move listeners, which they did so flawlessly.

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