Chumbawamba and I

Today I received a delayed Christmas present through the post, in the form of a DVD of Chumbawamba’s last British concert performed in Leeds, 31st October 2012.

I first heard about Chumbawamba (I think) in 1986, when they released their first album “Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records”. Since then (except for a five year stint with EMI and substandard releases whilst on the label) they have continued to impress me with their intelligence, humour, and social/historical commentary. Even when their style changed from anarcho-punk to anarcho-pop to folk music.

When they announced that they were to retire, I thought that I would never see them live again – the last and only time I had seen them was in Southampton, circa 1992 – until they announced three last concerts: Leeds, Berlin and Oslo. At first I did not contemplate the idea of travelling to Germany or Norway to see them off a final time, but thankfully Jo was quite positive about it, and sure enough we ended up in Oslo for Chumbawamba’s last concert ever.

It was both fitting and bizzare that the concert was held in an anarcho-community centre called Blitz. Pretty much as one would imagine a squat to look like, yet well organised with its cafeteria and stage, the roots of Chumbawamba’s political views fitted in nicely with Blitz’s anti fascist flags and cheap vegan food: at the same time, Chumbawamba were now only five members, looking much older than the public they were playing for, and it was to be an acoustic concert. Not quite punk as Blitz knows it.

The concert was fantastic. Jo and I were at the front, and while the band seemed reasonably subdued, they played well and played some excelleent songs. And as I watched the DVD this afternoon, the same bittersweet feelings of happiness (that we had gone to see them) and sadness were constantly fighting each other. Jo was goosebumping all over through the one hour and forty-five minutes, and I was fighting back tears on a number of occasions. Thank you, Santa, and thank you Chumbawamba.