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Mission of Burma @ Opium Rooms, Dublin


In this day and age, it’s more surprising when old bands don’t reform than when they do, but very few bands have returned as gracefully as post-punk legends Mission of Burma. Having broken up in 1983 with just one album, an EP and a couple of singles to their name, due to their notoriously loud live shows taking their toll on guitarist Roger Miller’s hearing, 2004’s long overdue second LP ONoffON actually seemed to pick up exactly where they left off, and follow up The Obliterati was bafflingly even better. It’s been four years since they released their fifth and possibly final album, but tonight’s career spanning set shows they’re still not prepared to become a mere nostalgia act.

Limerick’s Slow Riot take to the stage first, a band whose sound usually falls somewhere between Interpol and The National, but who come across rawer and more powerful live than on record, leaning more towards the sound of 154-era Wire, and Niall Clancy’s morose, understated vocals on ‘Demons’ are surprisingly catchy while increasingly frantic guitar effects build around him.


Mission of Burma meanwhile are still much louder live than on record, and though Miller is without his once trademark protective earmuffs, he’s instead taken other precautions such as positioning his amp at the front of the stage and put a screen around his side of the drumkit. They still sound like a group of men half their age in the prime of their career, as if that twenty year hiatus never happened, powering through opener Secrets’and That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate with the same energy and vitality as the recordings on Vs. from 1982, while bassist Clint Conley’s ageless voice is as sweetly melodic as ever on tracks like Dirt. All three members on stage (tape manipulator Bob Weston remains at the sound desk) take turns on vocals but Conley’s more anthemic numbers like the classic That’s When I Reach For My Revolver tend to steal the show, and with his huge ringing chords he remains one of post-punk’s great bass heroes.

With every album represented in the setlist, it’s notable how well the later material stands up alongside the old, particularly Obliterati highlights like 2wice and 1001 Pleasant Dreams. Weston’s tape loops aren’t always noticeable but when they are they add an extra layer of discordance, and in the encore he delights in sampling drummer Peter Prescott’s stage chatter and feeding it back to him at a lower octave, before inserting it into the gaps in The Ballad Of Johnny Burma (Miller also sweetly dedicates a song to Weston’s predecessor Martin Swope). There’s no Academy Fight Song tonight but as they leave the stage with the last loops of Red swirling around the venue it isn’t really missed. Prescott joked earlier that “we usually need about twelve songs to warm up, so by the end we’re really good”, but their once famous inconsistency (as referenced in the title of live album The Horrible Truth About Burma) seems to be just about the only quality that this band have left in the past. Cathal McBride

Photos by Moira Reilly. 

is the co-editor / photo editor. She also contributes photos and illustrations to The Thin Air print magazine.