As I sink a large wine before the show, I notice that this once cosy pub usually reserved for local post-work drinks has quickly become a hive for punks. Silver zips and Mohicans as tall as a hardware store shelf surround me. The ’70s band Penetration are in town and are celebrating their 40 year anniversary with a number of UK shows including tonight at the O2 Islington Academy.
I’m told that tonight is at full capacity and the venue fills up quick with a mixture of original punks and many anachronistic punks. Penetration confidently walks on to ‘In The Future’ with a quiet excitement. They storm through their back catalogue beginning with their first tracks ‘Duty Free Technology’ and “Race Against Time’. Behind them, vintage footage of the band charmingly flicks through rare clips of the ’70s combined with scans of their old admission tickets. Clips of the young Pauline Murray and Robert Blamire juxtaposed next to the slightly more creased versions we see before us is further proof that they have been around 40 years. But they certainly haven’t lost any of their spunk.
They continue chronologically with tracks from their debut Moving Targets. This includes their most famous hit ‘Don’t Dictate’ which they perform down to a fine art. Pauline explains in her thick County Durham accent that, like most punk bands, they couldn’t play very well when they made their first album but now have the ability to do the “fiddly bits”. Steve Wallace and Paul Harvey guide the band through on guitar and really give the songs new life.
We’re taken on through to their 2015 album Resolution. A man with eyes in front of me turns and says “I really love this song, I apologise in advance”. I moved temporarily in case he collapsed on top of me and submitted me to a fate similar to a chewing gum. But he survived. Resolution has a different energy to their other music but still feels like Penetration wrapped in Pauline’s velvety voice.
Penetration really went hard for their 40th anniversary and even for people unfamiliar with their songs, the show served as an immersive exhibition of their work. As they wind down with ‘Calm Before The Storm’, I feel like I’ve really gotten to know the band and this is a moment that I’m glad I was here for.
Photography By Mandy Morello