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Gang of Four/Radio 4
May 6, 2005 – Showbox – Seattle, WA
by Ashley Graham

If you’re a headlining band looking for an opener that can energize your crowd, you’d do well to get Radio 4 onboard.  An infectious pop/rock five piece, Radio 4 takes head-bobbing to full-on dance, both on stage and off.  Singer/bassist Anthony Roman and guitarist Tommy Williams have great moves and they inspire similar actions in the crowd.  Their club hit “Dance to the Underground” is huge and a number of songs off their most recent full-length Stealing of a Nation, including the title track and “Party Crashers,” highlight the rest of the set.  The only downside to having Radio 4 open your show? They could easily steal the show out from under you.

But not tonight.

Classics don’t need to be critiqued.  They’ve stood the test of time, they’ve influenced countless bands and it would be too ambitious of any critic to even begin to question their know-how.  That said, and without having seen them in their younger years, Gang of Four is brilliant.  The vocals are great, the personality is abundantly visible and the stage presence is a delight. While guitarist Andy Gill, bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham are all entertaining in their own right, singer Jon King is fucking amazing.

This may be a reunion tour, and for that matter the original line-up’s first time playing together since 1981, but none of the members miss a beat.  The songs all maintain an excitement that can often be lost after nearly twenty years of not being performed by their original creators.  Trusting the guy overheard on the way out of the venue, the band played a great deal of material off of their first album Entertainment!, including “At Home He’s a Tourist” and “Anthrax.”

All of this is constantly complemented by King, who keeps himself busy dancing, flailing and roaming the stage.  He crouches down and jumps around in circles.  He stands at the center mic and does a full-body gyration that would put all of the kids to shame.  During a song later in the set he unveils a decrepit microwave that’s been hiding under a black sheet and uses it to create a constant beat that carries through the song.  Though it falls from the table repeatedly, King never stops the beat and keeps an eerie focus on the microwave.  By the end of the set he’s panting a bit between songs, but he maintains an incredible energy that any of his fellow sixty-one year olds would envy.

A number of today’s bands will name Gang of Four as an influence, and those that don’t are still likely aping their ingenuity. You’ll find easy comparisons in bands like The Futureheads, but nothing can compare to the power of Gang of Four on stage or the way their music sounds coming through the speakers.

With an upcoming double LP set to be released this August it is impossible to say just what the future may hold for Gang of Four, but it’s already obvious that their reunion is a definite success. The tour heads east now for dates through May and their new single “To Hell with Poverty 2005” is currently available on iTunes.