G.B.H. Lee’s Palace, Toronto ON September 12

G.B.H. Lee’s Palace, Toronto ON September 12
G.B.H. blew it.

As vocalist Colin Abrahall noted to a virtually sold-out Lee’s Palace during the set, it’s been approximately 18 years since these Birmingham-based hardcore punk rock stalwarts have been to Toronto. That’s almost two decades of hoping, waiting and anticipating hearing them tear through their brand of hyperactive, four-chord punk that borders on metal but never quite crosses the line. It’s like playing "Ace Of Spades” on 78-speed.

For the most part, Abrahall, bassist Ross Lomas, guitarist Colin Blyth and drummer Scott Preece nailed it too. Confident and powerful, they hammered out a stellar array of tracks from their almost 30-year history, zinging off tunes such as "Diplomatic Immunity,” "Race Against Time,” "Alcohol” and "Sick Boy” with more precision and aggression than punks half their age can muster. Abrahall was witty, Preece was frantic and both Blyth and Lomas were imposing as they ravenously stalked the stage. Proving they’re still a force to be reckoned with, they even whipped out a new tune promised to be on their Hellcat Records debut, expected next year. It had the makings of one of the best shows this city has seen in months.

And then it fell apart in one single, blundering instant; the moment they pulled out "Big Women,” demanding seven young women come on stage to dance. Proud that they had pulled nine, the band continued on and the women screamed, boasting that they were on stage for a whopping two minutes.

It wasn’t funny. It was sad. Watching Abrahall prance around with women who could be his daughters only served to evoke mental comparisons to silverback gorillas ogling their flock or worse, hair metal, a time when booze and sluts were the ultimate goal, not actually creating solid music or engaging live shows. This was the wrong type of "engagement” with the audience.

At that moment, G.B.H. unwittingly became a mockery of everything punk rock has stood for since the mid-’70s. It’s a given that the genre’s morals have been compromised indelibly as of late but when dealing with members of the old guard — who have never given up the ghost at that — one would imagine they’d be keepers of the faith.

Who to be angrier at: G.B.H. for instigating such behaviour or the self-deprecating women who so readily engaged it? Such crassness is expected at say, a Mötley Crüe show — where those same mohawk-sporting women would deride their brethren for desecrating the feminine movement — but not during the epitome of punk rock. To these eyes, it was as if Joey Ramone himself had committed such grievous moral harm. Could you imagine him pulling off such a shady stunt?

I thought not.

Yes, it’s soap boxing because ultimately G.B.H. were only trying to have fun. But the point is that while everyone was there to have a good time, which many did, and a lesson in political correctness was not entirely necessary, G.B.H. were so fucking great up until that point. Were they to simply continue on full speed ahead and maintain the charge from their powerful, enthusiastic performance or invite both sexes to take advantage of stage time, this would have been an amazing evening. As is, though, I wish I had left early. My image of G.B.H. wouldn’t henceforth be destroyed.

How disappointing.