Bob Geldof reached deep into his closet to wear something special for occasion: a snakeskin suit. Even though they’ve been playing throughout U.K. since May, The Boomtown Rats were returning to the United States for the first time in nearly 30 years. “We are the Boomtown Rats,” slithered Geldof, “and I’m wearing a fuck-off, pretend snakeskin suit.” It was enough to get him into Boomtown mode.
Pushing Terminal 5 curfew, the Rats hopped out at midnight opening the evening with a Tonic for the Troops duo by popping the cork with “(I Never Loved) Eva Braun” and moving straight into “Like Clockwork,” before stepping back a year to “Neon Hearts” from the band’s self-titled 1977 debut.
So how long had it been since they last played in the U.S.? Shortly after 1985’s Live Aid, Sir Geldof decided to go solo, and sadly The Boomtown Rats were no more. But nevermind the past, the Rats are back and mostly in original form with original members Simon Crowe, Garry Roberts, and Pete Briquette. This reunion of sorts was part of two evenings of gigs—beginning Sept. 26 in New York City and ending in Boston just two days later—with more U.K. gigs to follow through November.
More Tonic was spritzed in with “She’s So Modern” and the night’s close “Rat Trap” but not before pulling out “I Don’t Like Monday’s,” Boomtown’s somber reflection on the 1979 elementary school shooting in San Diego, Calif. toward the end of a 12-song set.
Like a ’70s time warp, the band couldn’t help returning to album one with a schizophrenic, yet bluesy mash-up “Mary of the 4th Form,” Lennon-McCartney penned Rolling Stones’ “I Wanna Be Your Man,” the perpetually covered Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” and some John Lee Hooker “Boom Boom,” which stuck most Geldof, who declared “It’s always fucking John Lee Hooker time,” all before shooting into their first number one hit, “Looking After No. 1,” a track the band chose to play during their last show together at Ireland’s Self Aid benefit concert back in 1986.
An evening filled with anything penned within the first three albums was up for grabs, even an encore back to 1979’s The Fine Art of Surfacing with “Diamond Smiles” and ending on something new, an electro-beat, stompy “The Boomtown Rats.”
Emceed by Irish actor and comedian Joe Rooney, the evening opened with nearly four hours of Irish entertainment. Rooney gave disturbingly, spot-on glimpses into David Bowie, Lou Reed, Elvis and Bryan Ferry singing nursery rhymes sandwiched in between Irish rockers Mundy, who pulled out nearly a dozen tracks opening with “Glory Hole” and going on about “Gin and Tonic” and “Galway Girl” while ’90s rockers Ash even slipped into the mix with a shorter set—the band’s first time performing in New York City in nearly a decade—before The Stunning stunned the audience; it was more than 20 since their last NYC gig.
There’s no telling whether Geldof and co. will stick around for good, or if this is a one-off coupling of reunion gigs, but The Boomtown Rats Classic Album Selection with the band’s six albums—The Boomtown Rats (1977), A Tonic For The Troops (1978), The Fine Art Of Surfacing (1979), Mondo Bongo (1980), V Deep (1982) and In The Long Grass (1984)—and a digital Ratlife EP,” which features four new songs, including ‘The Boomtown Rats,” “Back To Boomtown,” “Ratlife” and “Ratified” are out Oct. 21.