The The @ Brooklyn Steel in Brooklyn, NY on September 16th, 2018
The The @ Brooklyn Steel in Brooklyn, NY on September 16th, 2018

Live Review: The The @ Brooklyn Steel – September 16th 2018

The recent years have seen the reappearance of a number of 80s and 90s bands, but few of those have been more unexpected – or caused more excitement than – the return of English post-punk legends The The after sixteen years away from the stage. Matt Johnson never quite disappeared from public view, composing and recording several soundtracks, running a podcast, and even releasing the (very) occasional single, but for all intents and purposes the band as a musical entity had ceased to exist. Then word came last fall that the band would return for a series of live performances, first at home in the UK and in Europe, but it wasn’t long until North American dates were added. Two of those dates took place in New York, where they played at two very different venues – Brooklyn Steel, one of the city’s newest and largest club venues, and the Beacon Theatre, a grandiose neo-Grecian theatre in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Both venues were packed, proving that Johnson and his band haven’t been forgotten.

If Johnson has spent the last decade and a half away from music and pursuing other interests, he’s either never lost his fire in that time, or he’s found a way to tap into it again. The The was known in particular for the searing social commentary that was so integral to many of his lyrics, and for better or for worse songs like “Heartland,” “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again),” and “Dogs of Lust” have lost none of their poignancy. Aided by a triple-microphone stand (one mic with clear vocals, and two on either side with various effects on them), Johnson alternately sang, yelped, and growled through those songs and more, frequently taking the wireless microphone off of the rig to prowl the stage.

Aided by a group of musicians whom he had previously worked with in past incarnations of the band – bassist James Eller, keyboardist DC Collard, and drummer Earl Harvin – along with guitarist Barrie Cadogan (recommended to Johnson by Johnny Marr since he was unavailable to tour) – Johnson played a 23-song set of many of the hits as well as numerous deep cuts, including a large portion of 1992’s Dusk album. The songs were instantly familiar, even when they received significant makeovers like the lounge-y take on “The Beat(en) Generation” and the rocked-up, backing-singer-less version of “Infected.” While Johnson didn’t premiere any new material, he did include his most recent single, last year’s “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming,” in the mix.

But it was clear that this wasn’t a run at pure nostalgia – while Johnson did take some time to talk about the back stories and meanings of several songs, as well as mentioning briefly his time living in New York, he and the band were very much in the moment. Even the name of the tour, the “Comeback Special,” serves as a declaration: The The is back, and we need them more than ever whether we knew it or not.


The The


Elysian Fields


The The setlist
Global Eyes
Sweet Bird of Truth
Flesh and Bones
The Beat(en) Generation
Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)
We Can’t Stop What’s Coming
Beyond Love
Love Is Stronger Than Death
Dogs of Lust
Helpline Operator
This Is the Day
Soul Catcher
Bugle Boy
Slow Emotion Replay
I Saw the Light
Like a Sun Risin Thru My Garden
I’ve Been Waiting for Tomorrow (All of My Life)

True Happiness This Way Lies (Matt Johnson solo)
Uncertain Smile
Lonely Planet



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