Although they only existed for six years and released three albums in their original run, The Chameleons were one of the most influential bands of the British post-punk movement in the 1980s. A brief reunion in 2000 resulted in one new album and a pair of acoustic releases re-recording the band’s classic tracks, but dissolved in acrimony and in-fighting after only a couple of years. More recently, singer and bassist Mark Burgess has been touring as Chameleons Vox, performing the band’s catalog with a rotating cast of musicians backing him. Last week, the band came to the Metro Gallery in Baltimore on their “Farewell Tour” as Burgess intends to cut back on the regular touring schedule.
For this final tour, the group focused on The Chameleons’ first album from 1983, Script of the Bridge, playing it from front to back. From the distinctive opening of “Don’t Fall” to the closing notes of “View From a Hill,” the band tore through the album, faithfully recreating it with all of the distinctive energy of the original. Regular guitarist Chris Oliver had to drop off the tour due to a family emergency, but Roger Lavellee from Boston band The Curtain Society dropped in and turned in an impressive performance for someone who had literally joined the band the day before. Also joining Burgess for the tour were long-time collaborator drummer Yves Altana and guitarist Neil Dwerryhouse. After completing the twelve-song album, the band returned for an encore of several other Chameleons favorites – “Swamp Thing,” “Nostalgia,” “Perfume Garden,” and “Singing Rule Brittania.”
While Chameleons Vox may not have quite managed to recreate the full Chameleons experience (nothing can quite match the twin guitar interplay of Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding), they were still the next best thing, and the packed room full of Chameleons fans left more than satisfied. Hopefully Burgess changes his mind and Chameleons Vox makes the rounds again, but if this was their swan song, it was quite a way to go out.