The Professionals: The Factory, Manchester – live review

Photo by Ian Corbridge


Manchester factory

October 16, 2021

(watch John Robb’s interview with Paul Cook here)

Paul Cook once earned a special drum seat in the pantheon of rock n roll greats simply by being in the Sex Pistols. They were the pivotal group that changed everything and whose members spent the post Pistols era running in different directions.

Post Pistols he and his partner in crime, Steve Jones, became something of a punk rock Sly and Robbie after the iconic band’s sinking. They appeared everywhere as mercenaries playing on what seemed to be everyone’s records and adding this huge, warm wall of sound before forming the first incarnation of The Professionals in 1979 to perpetuate this art of palaver.

In 2021, the Pistols appear to be everywhere again.

As they should be.

The band might have been full of contradictions and their legacy was hotly contested, but they also created some of the greatest rock n roll these islands have ever produced and with the upcoming Danny Boyle TV series based on Steve Jones’ book ” Lonely Boy, “they talk about becoming a supernova again. Of course, this resulted in the old fault lines getting shaken with legal wrangling with former singer Mr. Rotten and the usual hoo hah, but at least the band is back in the limelight.

Meanwhile, Paul hit the road with The Professionals, happy enough in the shadow of the cult, contenting himself with playing anthemic, melodic rock n roll with a team of crack players to underline his own creative credo.

The group’s 2021 version, which is now without Cook’s lifelong boyfriend Steve Jones, is in mint condition. Tom Spencer takes on the role of Steve Jones and his guitar and vocals help define the current lineup – he has a powerful melodic voice and his sense of bonhomie is perfect for the band. He delivers the trademark avalanche guitar and the really awesome melodic vocals and is damn good on his own terms.

What is essential here is that there are no passengers in the group and that they look lean and vital. Tom has a lovable stage character and a formidable voice that easily hooks on to songs from the band’s new SNAFU album, old Professionals material or the rising rendition of the Sex Pistols classic, Silly Thing.

Of course, a lot of this is about Cooky’s distinctive drums – no matter who he plays with – whether it’s Edwyn Collins, Subway Sect, The Pistols or his own band, his signature style is instantly recognizable. It’s always that heavy half-beat groove that defined the Pistols when everyone was in a rush, the avalanche toms, the heartbeat snare, the hammered bass drums… few drummers are so unique and so recognizable and few still retain the power and precision of that depth in a quarry.

Professionals are a hell of a wine from a rock n roll band. They play the 2021 form of music and sound closer to the Wildhearts than the Pistols. They don’t look old fashioned, they have an edge and they have songs full of great turns of phrase, great hooks and huge gorgeous yob choruses and a killer new album.

Let’s whisper it loudly. Professionals are on fire. They are currently the UK’s Oldest Best New Band and are way better than they should be and serious contenders.

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