For the past forty years, Edinburgh punk legends The Exploited have left not only a trail of chaos and destruction behind them but a host of bonafide classic albums, punk or otherwise such as Punks Not Dead, Troops Of Tomorrow and Beat The Bastards. They are still extremely active on the live front despite frontman Wattie Buchan suffering a heart attack onstage at a gig in Potugal a few years ago and it is testament to his love for the band, the fans and punk rock that he is still out there onstage belting out the bands classics.
The Exploited have been a band that this writer has wanted to witness live for so many years, having first become a fan of the band as a teenager after hearing Troops Of Tomorrow and the recently released Beat The Bastards and why it has taken so long is beyond me but it is with great anticipation that I arrive at The Fleece in Bristol to witness the glory that is The Exploited live and the venue fills up fast with a multitude of Punks, skinheads and metallers ready for some chaos.
Support for tonight are local punk band Criminal Mind and they get the gig off to a ferocious start with their uptempo and no nonsense punk. The band hardly stay still as they blast through their set and aside from their drummer, all the members take it in turns to sing cente stage in an energetic and wholly entertaining set. Cheers go up when the band give a shout out to the “Monday warriors, who get wasted and go to work the next day!” and there is plenty of commotion on the dance floor throughout. The music of Criminal Mind is for the most part a frenetic style of punk with the mighty and anti fascist anthem Blood On The Cobbles from their Life To Defend album in particular going down a storm but they also add in elements of ska and reggae flavours into their music that goes down a treat along with a shout of “Fuck Racists” that gets a huge cheer from the Bristol crowd.
The bands hour long set flies by in a blur of energy and they barely pause for breath for the duration of the set gets the crowd suitably warmed up for tonight’s headliners and they leave the stage knowing they have made more than a few new fans tonight.
Shortly after, The Exploited explode onto the stage and launch straight into the evergreen Lets Start A War (Said Maggie One Day) and the audience respond in kind by going absolutely fucking mental from the front of the stage right to the back of the venue.
The likes of Fightback, Dogs Of War and The Massacre are detonated early on like the musical bombs they are and when they play play UK82 followed by Dead Cities, it’s a punk fans dream. Alternative, Troops Of Tomorrow, Never Sell Out and I Believe In Anarchy are all mid set highlights before rousing renditions of Beat The Bastards and Cop Cars set the audience off in spectacular fashion. Fuck The System, Disorder and Army Life follow and continue what is a glorious barrage of life affirming and chaotic punk anthems delivered by the best there is and shows that this gig has definitely been worth waiting all these years for.
Wattie leads the charge and stalks the stage with a wild glint in his eye but also can’t keep the smile off his face and is in fine form throughout, laughing, joking and generally taking the piss out of the audience but also taking aim at the world and things that piss him off like “Fucking keyboard warriors”. His vocals are on point all night and he is certainly one of the best frontmen that there ever has been, something that everyone in attendance would agree on. The rest of the band play a blinder as well, proving without a doubt what a tight band they are as they blast through the set.
The set ends with Fuck The USA, the classic singalong of Sex & Violence, the defiant Punks Not Dead and the closing Was It Me and The Exploited leave the stage to a rapturous applause with the audience knowing that they have just witnessed something special. This is raw and chaotic punk live in its natural habitat and there is nobody who do it better. Live live The Exploited and long may they continue to being the chaos!