The Undertones @ Exit Festival 2022, Novi Sad, Serbia

Words: Miljan Milekić

“Good Evening! We are The Undertones, and we will be your entertainment for the next hour!” And it sure was entertaining. Coming from a different time and a different scene than the one I was raised in, the Northern Irish five-piece influenced bands that influenced bands I grew up listening to, so the chance to see them live was truly a welcome one.

“Tonight, we are going to play The Undertones songs, as we only know those. We tried to learn some Nick Cave songs earlier today, but they are too hard.” Another truth that came from the stage, along with a friendly stab at the Friday night Main Stage headliner, as the band fired up quite a few. In an almost non-stop fashion, the band kept delivering one song after another, with a strong focus on the first two records, both of which are now over four decades old.

And that was the best part – even forty years later, the songs still kick with the same energy, the same beautiful melodies, guitars that simply melt in one’s ears, and dancefloor-ready beats. Simple, yet powerful pop songs in all their glory, with a punk rock edge and energy, long before pop punk, as we know it today, was a thing. The timelessness of the band’s music was additionally supported by the crowd in front of them, spreading across a few different generations. From old school fans in their fifties and sixties to teenagers and everyone in between, they were all singing with the band, while mosh pits, typical for the Explosive stage were replaced by dancing.

The performance itself was exactly what the fans would expect from the band at this stage. Without the pressure of commercial or mainstream success, the band is well aware of their position, and it seems like they enjoy every bit of it. They seemed like they enjoyed every moment on the stage, happy to share their music with the people in front of them. From the opening ‘You’ve Got My Number’ all the way to the end, the band was in a good mood, sharing a story or two about some of the songs. Of course, they didn’t miss the chance to complain about the Irish weather, and how they barely recognized “that yellow thing in the sky they haven’t seen in a while” before firing up ‘Here Comes The Summer.’

Unsurprisingly, the biggest reaction from the crowd came in during the legendary hit ‘Teenage Kicks,’ played in the latter part of the set, setting the mood for the rest of the show. Forty-two years after its release, the song still kicks with the same energy, while earning its place as a timeless classic in the punk rock genre, as well as the British music scene in general.

The truth is that The Undertones are far from mainstream relevance in 2022. Their songs can’t be heard too often on the radio, especially outside the UK. The fact that they made a massive, 16-year-long hiatus after only a few strong years, a hiatus that lasted for most of the ’80s, and almost all of the ’90s had probably cost them an even bigger legacy, but at this point, nobody seems to care. On a chilly Saturday night in the middle of the Summer, in the sanctuary of the guitar sound at the predominantly mainstream-oriented festival, among the five people on, and a thousand or two in front of the stage, I’m sure nobody did.

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