Gang of Four is not taking a nostalgia trip

The Gang of Four (with singer Jon King and bassist Thomas McNiece) performed a mix of classics and new material at the Paradise. The Gang of Four (with singer Jon King and bassist Thomas McNiece) performed a mix of classics and new material at the Paradise. (Bill Brett for The Boston Globe)
By Scott McLennan
Globe Correspondent / February 9, 2011

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Gang of Four found its audience in the early ’80s by fusing thought-provoking ideas to dance-invoking song arrangements. Call it fun punk or pedantic partying, it takes a good deal of work to pull it off, and Gang of Four arrived ready for the job Monday at the Paradise.

Gang of Four’s 90-minute set to a packed house was no mere history lesson interspersed with a few new numbers. Rather, singer Jon King and guitarist Andy Gill, the band’s remaining original members, along with drummer Mark Heaney and bassist Thomas McNiece performed with a crazed urgency that turned most everything Gang of Four touched into sonic gold, from the opening sting of “Never Pay for the Farm’’ to the wistful conclusion provided by “Return the Gift.’’

The Paradise audience was also treated to an appearance by original Gang drummer Hugo Burnham, who lives in Gloucester and teaches art. Burnham joined his old mates during the encores, which included the band’s opening salvo from 1978, “Damaged Goods.’’

But in seeming testament that Gang of Four isn’t feeling nostalgic, the band bypassed its hit “I Love a Man in Uniform,’’ in favor of richer material such as the twitchy “We Dream as We Live, Alone’’ and scathing “He’d Send in the Army.’’

King and Gill, both 55, powered the concert with a dynamic chemistry. The singer was a flailing, shimmying maniac, while the guitarist exuded steely calm. Yet, the two blended perfectly, allowing the coiled tensions of “Paralysed’’ to sound as natural in the set as the tribal stomp of “To Hell With Poverty.’’

Gang of Four recently released “Content,’’ its first new songs in 16 years, and from that created such concert highlights as the hypnotic “A Fruitfly in the Beehive,’’ frenetic “You Don’t Have to be Mad,’’ and confrontational “Do As I Say.’’ With “Not Great Men,’’ “Anthrax’’ and others, the band also generously aired its funk-punk masterpiece, “Entertainment!’’

A show that could have coasted on cred instead added to the admiration Gang of Four rightly deserves.

Hollerado opened the concert with a suitable dose of charismatic and brash irreverence.

Scott McLennan can be reached at


With Hollerado

At: Paradise Rock Club, Monday