On Thursday 19th 2017, Metropolis played as supporting band for tribute band From the Jam. This is no ordinary tribute band, though, it was formed by original The Jam band member Bruce Foxton. The guys from Metropolis had already supported Bruce and his band previously in 2013. That was also at The Apex in Bury St. Edmunds – a state of the art live music venue. As Chris Longman, lead vocalist for Metropolis explains: “we hoped we might get another shot, but try as we might the venue decided not to ask us again. Until this January when, with two weeks notice, we were handed the same support for “From the Jam” as before.”
Two weeks notice wasn’t a lot, but the boys rose to the challenge and dusted off their equipment. The last gig they’d played was in September 2016. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often for steampunk bands and they weren’t going to let it slip by them. They hastily reappointed their recently retired drummer Dan Alexander and quickly arranged a couple of rehearsal sessions. “(our) main audiences tend to be those at small, discerning more intimate local society functions. But METROPOLIS have always been about getting the music of steampunk to the masses,” explained Metropolis front man Chris Longman.
The guys were happy with the two rehearsals that they managed to get before the gig and Pete put together a 45 minute set list for their alloted time. Hopefully this was a good portent for the night that was approaching fast. Thursday arrived and the band convened at the rear of The Apex. Chris says: “It was perishing cold and the wind whistled through the functional grey space. But excitement was in the air. We could hear From the Jam performing their sound check on stage in the next room.” The guys had even managed to arrange a couple of Roadies to help with their kit, which is – as Chris jokes – “amazing what a free ticket to see From the Jam can do.”
Chris has a background linked to the theatre, so when he walked into the Dressing Room and saw lights and a piano, he felt right at home. That’s how you want to feel before a large event like this, though. After changing into his METROPOLIS outfit, he joined the band on stage for the sound check. The Apex is known for its magnificent sound system and lighting set up. With everything ready and in order, they managed to belt out a few tracks before the place started filling up.
Tesla would have been proud of the amount of electricity in the air as the band buzzed before their time came. Having not performed live for a few months, the anticipation was palpable. As punters; music lovers started to fill the room, one chap stopped and enquired what the Bowler Hats were for. “Watch the support act and find out,” came the reply.
Metropolis kick off the night
The show kicked off with Prologue which the band’s typical opener but thanks to keyboard maestro Johnny and his new Roland Juno keyboard, the audience were treated to lots of live swooshes and wibbles. They really set the place up as Johnny was joined on stage by Dan on drums, Pete on Bass, White on Guitar and Chris on vocals. From Prologue, Metropolis blasted the audience with Thousand Suns which certainly got their attention. They followed that on with 30 Degrees Below and Sentinel. By now the crowd were clapping and cheering while retro futuristic rock tracks Goodbye Pompeii and All the Machines lit the auditorium. The lighting operator had been told to do whatever he wanted and he really went to town.
New Ice Age and Sirens followed. They also took a moment to shout out Paul Render. He’s a From the Jam fan who saw Metropolis play at the last outing and has followed the band ever since. The band finished the set with a cover of Robot by Bob Calvert. It’s the only cover song that Metropolis do and they regularly cite Calvert as arguably the first steampunk musician alongside Hawkwind (which he once fronted).
Meeting From the Jam
As the guys made their way to the dressing room, Chris nipped in to see From the Jam. He was greeted warmly by Bruce who remembered him from the last time Metropolis had supported them (maybe it was the Bowler Hats). Then they made their way back to the front to supervise the merchandise sales and chat to the punters. While there, they bumped into Nick who agreed to let them play and support From the Jam. He was beside himself at how well the night was going and how well the band had played. He promised to consider Metropolis for further nights.
The punters crowded round the band and bestowed compliment after compliment, including the chap who had asked about the Bowlers. He bought both the EP and Out of Mind album (signed, obviously). “I’ve never seen anything like that. It was amazing,” he said to Chris. It goes to show quite how much steampunk musicians are changing the perceptions of non-steampunks.
The guys watched as From the Jam played a blistering set. Classics such as Eton Rifles, Start and Down in the Tubestations echoed around the auditorium. The organisers had even created a small mosh pit for the 50 somethings to reconnect with their past. The whole place rocked to what ended up as a triumphant night for everyone. The guys really got a kick from chatting with From the Jam post show and even got obligatory selfies. That is until the fire alarm went off and they all had to leave the warmth of the building and stand in the freezing January air.
Chris said that this night was their single greatest performance. It gave Dan a really good send off as he formally retires from drumming duty with Metropolis and geared the band up for their next performance. That’s also in Bury St Edmunds but this time they’re headlining the Fringe Arts Festival on April 1st 2017.
You can find out about Metropolis and listen to some of their music on their website: Band website link