Heaven 17 and BEF

Heaven 17 and BEF

Liverpool 02 Academy
20th October 2016

Reviewed by Rob Harrison

With a few lines from the film Clockwork Orange the show begins, quite apt then for these dystopian times. The stage at this point is empty, and resembles perhaps a set from the film 1984.

The band then appear and burst into fascist groove thing and yes we are definitely in neo-tory territory here (or terror tory more to the point). After the song has finished singer Glenn Gregory remarks “We wrote that 35 years ago, it could be three days, ago what’s changed?”
(too right)

The album Penthouse and Pavement was released in 1981 at the beginning of Thatcherism and now seems quite prophetic. The record seems to pre-empt the coming of the yuppie and the neo-fascist corporate identity of the Thatcherite revolution.

And now here we are slap bang into one of the most right wing governments since the war, and that was a war cabinet, so basically martial law existed. Makes you think doesn’t it, so perhaps we need a bit of a history lesson here.

This seems to be like a musical really, probably an anti-capitalist one at that. But thinking back, it was enjoyable, but I felt the material began to wear thin after a while. Perhaps it works better on an album. Maybe I should put it on my hit list of things to listen to.

During the second half we are treated to the BEF (British Electric Foundation), which is a collection of artists who Heaven 17 wish to collaborate with at the time. So originally it came about during the early days of Indie and featured artists such as Billy MacKenzie from the associates,Tina Turner and Sandie Shaw. Sort of merging kitsch pop with indie electro, which actually worked, mostly due to the songs they covered and the quality of the performers .

The first to perform is Mari Wilson, but dear me we seem to have very quickly slipped into chicken and chips territory here (baby crying in chalet number 50) and, hey presto, we are back at Pontins in Minehead. This really brings back bad memories for me, and with the 1984 set a bit weird too.

Next up is Pete Hooton from the Farm. I hate the Farm actually but Pete is quite good mega really, He does a version of Altogether Now, the song made famous by the band.

The BEF Give it a disco slant, which gives it a kick up the arse, nice. His next song is Bank Robber, which is also good. Pete looks quite slick, like he could sell you a Nissan, but tonight turns in a great performance.

Then up pops Glen Matlock with his lovable cockney accent. it’s like he’s trying trying to be an extra in Mary Poppins. He then bangs into a bumptious stars on a 45 version of Pretty Vacant, Someone who is much older than me, and that’s quite old, is attempting to pogo while his wife looks on horrified. it’s like he’s just whipped out his wiener at a party. y’know that look.

Just as I had written him off as punk chicken and chips, he redeems himself with the next song, a kind of Spanish sounding ‘Mink de Ville’ kind of number. Excellent. Good old Glen, we will let you off then.

The evening lifts when Glen and the band do the hit Temptation, which is rather good. I can say this because during my research for the piece I you-tubed a performance of said song in Sheffield, which wasn’t much cop but this was good.

And so the evening ends with everyone joining in on Wonderful Life by Black, as a tribute to Colin Vearncombe, who recently died in a car accident. So an evening of ups and downs.

But, thinking back to the gig, it was fun. So don’t forget to check out Penthouse and Pavement sometime.

1 Comment


  1. Glen Matlock’s second song was a version of Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’. Utterly atrocious. And his cabaret crooning to ‘Pretty Vacant’ alongside female backing singers dressed entirely in glitter can definitely not be forgiven either.
    No mention of Glenn Gregory’s ‘Wichita Lineman’, the only song of the evening to be actually recorded by BEF. Penthouse and Pavement was indeed great, but BEF (excluding Glenn Gregory’s admirable stints) basically consisted of random cheap karaoke for the ageing masses.

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