Reliving Post-Punk Glory: The Mission UK’s Dejavú Tour Recap Review+Photos: The Mission UK, The Chameleons UK and Theatre of Hate at Skully's Music Diner 10/5/23
COLUMBUS, OH- I still believe in God, but God no longer believes in me.” The opening line of The Mission UK’s debut album in 1986 continued my admiration for Wayne Hussey and company. They were members of the Sisters of Mercy, and after leaving, Hussey and bassist Craig Adams formed the Sisterhood, which would eventually become The Mission UK after recruiting guitarist Simon Hinkler and drummer Mick Brown. They spent most of the late ’80s and ’90s as a juggernaut of the post-punk genre.
The Dejavú tour, which also features The Chameleons UK and Theatre of Hate, was originally slated for 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. It was set back in motion in the Spring of 2022, starting in the UK, Europe, and South America, and seems to have been widely successful with many sold-out shows across the tour stops. Whereas The Skully’s Diner show was not sold out, it was pretty packed on a Thursday night in Columbus, OH. I personally have been looking forward to this tour since its original announcement, first buying a ticket for the 2021 date scheduled at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles. Still, after moving to the East Coast in 2022 and everything being rescheduled due to the pandemic delay, I bought a ticket for the October 5, 2023 date. See, I’m a huge fan of the bands and had determined I would not miss this opportunity to see them.
Theatre of Hate opened the evening, and while they are probably the least well-known of the three bands to American audiences, they were still met with a very positive reaction from the crowd. Led by original guitarist/singer Kirk Brandon and bassist Stan Stammers, they kicked off the night with a classic, casual stroll to the stage with no fancy lighting and just started rocking. Their lineup was solid with Chris Bell on drums and Clive Osborne on sax, and who wouldn’t love a band that has a lead saxophone player rather than a lead guitarist?
Singer Brandon had suffered some health issues earlier in the year, but he seemed to be back strong and in good spirits as he led the band through an all-too-short set of classic tracks drawn largely from the group’s 1982 debut album Westworld. They kicked off their set with one of their first hits, “Judgement Hymn” (a strong set opener), then rolled right into “Original Sin,” “Conquistador,” and “The Wake,” which were all released in the early ’80s. The next song was the 2018 release “Day of the Dog,” before retreating back to their classics and ending the night with “Do You Believe In WestWorld” and “Propaganda.” They gave us a solid set and were a strong opener to the night, which the growing crowd certainly appreciated.
The Chameleons were up next, which I was excited to see as I have never had the opportunity. I remember in my youth being pretty obsessed with their “Script of the Bridge”. So much so that the band I was in at the time covered “Up The Down Escalator” and “Don’t Fall” for fun. Mark Burgess’ voice is unique-sounding, like a powerful pushed vocal and proper enunciation, and it was as strong as ever this night. Though he’s been touring as “ChameleonsVox” for several years with the help of the original drummer John Lever, who sadly passed away in 2017. However, on this tour, he has reunited with the original guitarist, Reg Smithies, giving somewhat of a reunion from their heyday. Rounding out the lineup are two additional musicians who have worked with Burgess in recent years, guitarist Stephen Rice and drummer Chris Oliver. They played a set covering a number of classics from the three albums that made up the group’s original classic run.
They opened with “A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days,” followed by ”Monkeyland and “Looking Inwardly.” Happily, what came next was the aforementioned “Escalator,” which, just hearing the opening jangling yet tight up downs drenched in a bit of maybe flanger and a little bit of distortion, got my heartbeat up and running. I love that song so much. Their set was a mere 8 songs, which sadly did not include “Don’t Fall,” but they did play the beautiful and atmospheric “Swamp Thing” and “Second Skin.”
At one point during their set, Mark addressed the crowd, thanking them for their decades of support. He shared that there have been many times they thought of calling it quits recently; but during the peak of COVID, Mark’s mother had sadly passed but in her final days encouraged her son not to quit and to keep going, which he has done with passion and vigor. I, for one, am thankful that he listened. I realize that I am gushing here, but Mark’s impassioned performance of these classic songs gave me a euphoric reaction as I sang along. As they finish out the remaining US dates of the Dejavú tour, I am hoping they return soon for more shows and maybe even a new album.
The moment I had been waiting for, for the better half of 2 years, finally presented itself: The Mission UK. The last time I saw them was sometime in the ’90s at the Showcase Theater in Corona, CA. The band is absolute magic, with swirling guitars, solid bass lines, passionate drumming, and Wayne Hussey’s powerful baritone voice and their poetic and spiritual lyrics. To say I am a fan is equally an absolute understatement. Even when I’m not listening to them on iTunes or on vinyl (I still have my original “God’s Own Medicine” and “Children” LPs), I’m singing the songs, usually a cappella.
The band, which is rounded out by original bassist, Craig Adams, and original guitarist, Simon Hinkler, and newcomer drummer, Alex Baum, seem as fresh as they did in their “Salad Days.” They played each song to perfection despite needing some adjustments in the monitor and stage volumes. Seeing them again after all these years was euphoric, to say the least, and as I stated in the opening, I wasn’t going to miss it.
As the lights dimmed and the familiar “Children” playing subtly started to bleed through the PA, the band took their places on stage playing the opening riffs to the opening track of their second album, “Beyond the Pale.” As the drums crashed in, there they were in all their glory, most notably, Hussey was all swagger and shades (I do miss his black bolero hat that made his trademark look), wearing a flowery black and grey shirt and donning his white Schecter signature series Corsair 12-string (I want this guitar as it is beautiful). But it only saw 2 songs before having to be switched out due to some sort of issue. His voice is as commanding as it ever has been. It is truly one of my favorite voices in my musical landscape.
While the band has a total of ten albums to their name at this point, they played songs from seven of them. Their set was solid and boasted an eclectic mix of mostly their singles and their most well-known music. It was a set of highlights, including “Severina”, “Naked and Savage”, “Butterfly on a Wheel”, and their cover of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane,” that had me singing or recording video to capture the musical moments they delivered so well, extending some of them with musical paintings, pauses, and sing-alongs. Given the fact that they retain 3/4 of the original lineup, it would be hard to imagine anything less than near perfection. Drummer Baum is an exciting addition as he not only captured the essence of Mick Brown’s original compositions but added his own flavor to them. After a year and a half of touring, they are a cohesive unit.
Their performance really drove home the differences in the styles of the respective bands on the bill. In contrast to ToH’s snarly gothcore and the Chameleons’ aural landscapes, the Mission’s music is more anthemic and respectably grandiose. If you closed your eyes during The Mission, you’d have heard the same voice as you did in the ’80s, and his razor-sharp wit was ever-present. They offered other nuggets from their hallowed discography, including a trifecta of perfection that closed out their main set with the likes of “Butterfly On a Wheel,” “Wasteland,” and the atmospheric “Deliverance” before the band left the stage.
Hussey reappeared on stage a few minutes later, solo for the encore. He offered a stripped-down version of the passion-encouraging “Love Me To Death,” which sounded so much like a love song in this format. As he finished, the drum loop for “Tower of Strength” began to play, as he sang and played the guitar parts over it. The rest of the band joined him midway through and hammered it out till the end. He then began singing part of another song, which I couldn’t quite make out while accompanied by Hinkler.
The downside of having such a stacked lineup was that all three bands played short sets. There wasn’t really time for any deep dives, but what each presented was more than satisfactory for both the veterans and the new blood. The US leg of the tour is wrapping up, and then the Mission and TOH are off back to the UK for a few more dates, after which The Mission is set to take a “long hiatus,” according to their official Instagram. I am definitely thankful they made this trek, and if it’s the last time I’ll get to see the Mission live, I’m satisfied. But I hope against hope that maybe we will get another album and maybe another tour soon enough.