The Boomtown Rats’ reunion has been therapeutic for us all says Simon Crowe ahead of Latitude
- Credit: Archant
The Boomtown Rats make their Latitude debut this week. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage talks to drummer Simon Crowe about the band’s cathartic second coming and rocking out in your 60s.
Sir Bob Geldof opened up to BBC’s Front Row towards the end of 2014 about how performing with The Boomtown Rats helped him handle the grief he feels following daughter Peaches’ death in April that year. How utterly cathartic it was to lose himself in music for a couple of hours.
“Bob’s private life is nothing I would wish to broadcast to anybody or even comment on, but I would say the experience of coming back together, putting the show back on the road, actually getting up on stage and doing it has been very cathartic for all of us, therapeutic,” says Crowe of their reunion in 2013.
“There’s a synergy in any band and I’d forgotten what our synergy was, how it felt to play with The Boomtown Rats. We were apart 27 years and I’m sure I speak for all of us in (saying) putting the band back together, going through the old material, slogging through the rehearsals and finally getting out (there)... was just amazing. So, yeah, I think you lose yourself in the music - that’s the beauty, the wonder, the magic of it.”
The Rats, celebrating their 40th anniversy this year, make their Latitude Festival debut on Sunday, July 19. They’re looking forward to it.
“We’re very excited. There are good bands playing there this year. Ten years is good going and... Latitude’s got a good reputation.”
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The band have a busy summer ahead of them, full of festival gigs, tours across Europe. I’ve caught Crowe as he’s packing for the band’s trip to Sweden later that day. It’s not going well he laughs; confessing there are drumsticks lying all over the floor. Luckily they’ve a technical crew who look after most of their gear.
“I’m 63 now so was 33 when the band finished, that was the last time we toured. Everything’s different,” he says, pointing out there were no more than a handful of festivals when he was the latter. Now, there’s a handful in every county, every town even.
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“You play the same music but the way you play it is slightly different. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to recreate the raw energy of the band. When you try to do that when you’re in your 60s it’s got to be different than when you’re in your 30s. But I have to say everything we do on stage, the reaction so far has been that this band has still got that energy. That’s certainly what we’re striving to achieve.”
Crowe confesses it’s exhausting when they’re on every other night. “It’s not like when you’re young and can get up and play without a problem, then stay up all night after every gig. These days you’ve got to pace yourself, be more conscious of what you’re playing and how to achieve the dynamics of what you’re after.” So, straight off to bed with a good book then...
“It’s not quite as bad as pipes and slippers yet,” he laughs. “You just think ‘how did I used to play that’. You go back and listen to it and go ‘yeah, that’s good maybe I can improve on that’ or ‘maybe I can just stick with that’. You’re analysing the thing whereas back in the day you just did it.”
Honestly, he’s not sure that’s a good thing but that’s the nature of looking back. What the Rats are doing is playing a set they feel is the most dynamic and hard-hitting, the sound of the band which may not always come across on the records.
“A lot of people know us for Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays, then we go on stage and play She’s So Modern, Like Clockwork, a few album tracks. The show is made up of principally a lot of the songs that were hits for us, then a lot that were our favourites off the albums. It’s been mostly off the first two or three albums, that’s what we made our name with and it’s a lot of fun to revisit those songs. Putting them together, seeing how they fit is another challenge because they span several years.
“They were very much of the time. Everybody’s going on about the year of 1977... It was an amazing time, there were a lot of bands that exploded onto the scene and we were one of those. I feel very fortunate and privileged to be part of it.”
Inevitably talks turns to the pros and cons of the digital revolution versus the undefinable depth and subtlety of vinyl.
“Music has evolved, what hasn’t changed is the people. It (the music industry) has changed for the better in some ways; where you used to tour to support and promote your records now people just want to turn out and see live music and I think it’s very encouraging because everything’s gone digital, downloadable, instant.
“We talked about re-evaluating and reassessing what we used to have; maybe that’s part of people looking back and saying ‘hang on a sec, maybe this digital monster has got legs and it’s running away with itself’. I don’t know, I’m just putting that out there. The fact is people turn up and they love a live band - there’s nothing that will replace (that), no digital enhancement or holographic representation of the band,” says Crowe.
“That’s encouraging. Call me old fashioned but I like it. People actually (still) pay to go to these festivals which I think is fantastic.”