Gang of Four played Crystal Ballroom – 3/6

The latest iteration of the legendary post-punk ensemble sold out Somerville’s newest venue over the weekend.

When founding guitarist Andy Gill sadly passed away just over two years ago, most probably assumed we’d heard the last from his Gang of Four. As vocalist Jon King smashed a defunct microwave to pieces with a metal bat on stage Sunday night, he sought to emphatically demonstrate the opposite.

The band has undergone its fair share of lineup changes over an intermittent 40-plus year career, culminating in Gill as bandleader to a cast of young guns on vocals, bass and guitar during much of the 2010s. It’d been nearly a decade since King served as the band’s mouthpiece, and even longer since anything resembling a “classic” lineup shared the stage together. I found myself pleasantly surprised by the ferocity of Gill’s new recruits when I saw that version of the band back in 2015 – and glad to hear his distinctly piercing guitar tone up close and personal. But naturally, absent the late 70s core of King, drummer Hugo Burnham and bassist Dave Allen, the experience wasn’t quite complete.

The same was naturally true on Sunday night without Gill, but Gang of Four’s 2022 resurrection – prompted by last year’s 77-81 box set from Matador – brought together a lineup worthy of his legacy. Back were King and Burnham, joined by early 80s bassist Sara Lee and the intriguing addition of David Pajo, who you can really only refer to as a legend in his own right. As lead guitarist for post-rock pioneers Slint and affiliate player for (as a shortlist) Interpol, Tortoise, Stereolab, Royal Trux, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pajo boasts a resume uniquely suited to the task of filling Gill’s rather sizable shoes.

Touring sans-opener (apart from a set of tunes spun by Boston’s omnipresent DJ Carbo), this latest Gang took the stage in Somerville sharply at 9 and wasted no time in dispensing an 18-song set adhering largely to the Entertainment and Solid Gold era covered by Matador’s retrospective. While the show did betray the occasional hint that this particular lineup was still a new one, the songs by and large landed with a convincing punch. King is still every bit a frontman, working himself into a frenzy from the first note to the last and bristling with both a righteous fury and a sense of playfulness about it all. Burnham and Lee laid down a rhythm section true to the band’s funky, danceable core, even as amp troubles sought to foil them. And Pajo, looking a shade between nervous and positively elated, did justice to that Gill tone and technique that’s almost singlehandedly responsible for the word “angular” entering the rock writer vocabulary.

The songs, of course, still speak for themselves. “Not Great Men,” “To Hell With Poverty” and the set-closing “Damaged Goods” – among many others – rang as urgent, biting and timely as ever. Gang of Four always were an unabashedly political band, then as now, and the rear of the stage lined with Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ pride and anti-fascist flags set the tone of the evening for anyone not listening closely enough. Though again, it’s hard to imagine a member of Sunday night’s packed-in crowd missing any of the subtleties with a stage-strutting, bat-wielding King barking them forth.

Scroll down for a gallery of the whole set below.