(review by MWJ)
So, after their on fire performance was cut short and went up in a lack of smoke at Sheffield in April it was an absolute treat to get the Canadian punks back again so relatively soon. It inspired another car load trip up from the coast, getting to Leeds is much easier than its South Yorkshire counterpart though we inevitably had to face some rush hour of the gods on the way. Timing turned out to be almost perfect though as we got in with the first local (?) support ready to go, giving us a brief time to look at all the activist stalls and get some refreshments in
The Final Crisis certainly put some heart into their staccato structured metal core, mixing sludgy riffs with more intricate speed. Topped off with some quite harsh vocals it’s interesting in the sense of unusual to find them as a support in this context. This maybe reflects in their pretty muted reception, where they can barely raise a cheer through the desperation of giving shouts out for the bands higher on the bill.
Though a good set up in its own right, Rio’s is not a big place, and its design is somewhat constrained through it being converted from shopping arcade units. It wasn’t long before my view from the side of Strike Anywhere was quickly curtailed through ignorant folks coming to stand directly in front of me. Anyway, I was prompted to squeeze forward into the heart of things by that and could enjoy the show much better from there. I didn’t know the band but found them pretty accessible American hardcore, verging towards the too clean for me. There was clarity to their socio-political messages from the engaging singer, going for it so much his voice was breaking up a bit towards the end
Normally I would claim to be quite fair and open minded to the majority of alternative music but the math-core of (the other Canadians) Protest the Hero was dis-recommended by Gaz having been to the London show the night before. The fact that I could easily have spent most of the interval and set waiting at the hopelessly rammed bar meant it was preferable to pass out for a bit to the pub across the road for a far more relaxing drink and chat, before heading back in to find they’d been missed entirely. Reports were though that it was a too sharp a contrast and there had been a wholesale shift in the crowd of their own fans and those here for the main event, though perhaps it would have explained why the first band were more of a match to them.
Re-entry meant that I could get up front in plenty of time, spying the keyboard at the side of the stage makes me wonder if we are going to hear the same hilarious intro as last time but instead when they take to the stage with surly/amusing insults they hit us with the title track of their last release “Supporting Caste” (Good guess, Matt!). From then it’s a huge chunk of that album, plus selection of their heartfelt and head blowing classics. They certainly have the confidence in the material to shift through the variety of pace that’s contained there-in, from their new thrash party anthem of “The Bangers Embrace” to the emo-tional ache of the ballad to a dead cat (among other things) “Without Love”. Less is aired from the last “Potemkin City Limits” album than the previous “Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes” but no complaints, good to hear different numbers being dusted off and blasted out, a handful of their early stuff too though there’s mild surprise they don’t throw in their rare but effective dip into reggae/dub. I’m also struck that they include the closing tracks of their last three releases, all of which are quite long and demonstrate the “progressive” in their punk, patient build-ups and shifting structures and drawn out endings.
During the raging “A speculative fiction” I take a breather from the always cramped and occasionally battering pit conditions with an interlude on top of the crowd courtesy of Dave’s leg-up, but after am getting the evils from the stage security. Nothing compared to another friend of ours who after a spell airborne is grabbed by the bouncers (ouch) and is in the process of being removed from the venue until he is “de-arrested”. This leads to a break in the gig and stand-off in the crowd with the staff wanting to exert the right to fulfil clichés by wanting to “have a little word with him”, while the band and everyone else wait to crack on with things. After a very extended count-in and back-down we’re underway again. They don’t feel the need to harangue the bands with their highly intelligent politics, leaving that content to the songs, rather giving us a little banter on the topics. How earnest they are is self evident, although Chris still looks the same when reciting the lines
“Discard your clothes and come on foot,
Through streams and fields and moonlit moors,
Your bodies soaked in secret oils,
Perfumed herbs will heal your sores”
when sure enough there’s an outing for “Come to the Sabbat” with original composer Clive Jones camping it up and twiddling with his flute. So to speak. The humour’s always there, but the band are also deadly serious and passionate about life and making the most of it, making things better for yourself and others less fortunate. It’s great to see Todd on bass banging out this emphasis in the air with his fist, clad in Voivod T-shirt, though he does seem to be taking more of a back seat on the live vocals these days. Still, he more than makes his contribution as they all do, and in spite of it being a massively draining physical experience in the pit for a member of The Unfits like me, at the same time the whole thing spiritually (in an agnostic fashion) is inspiring and invigorating. A band who have something worthwhile to say and the means to deliver it. I’d originally planned to go down to Cardiff to see them again the next night but one of my daughters Xmas shows clashed so instead I had the compare and contrast experience of being stuck in another sweatbox hall, receiving religious messages, and screamed choruses. I resisted the urge to stage dive though.
Setlist in no particular order
1. “Supporting Caste”
2. “Tertium Non Datur”
3. “Dear Coach’s Corner”
4. “Human(e) Meat “
5. “Potemkin City Limits”
6. “Without Love
7. “The Banger’s Embrace”
8. “Last Will & Testament
9. A Speculative Fiction
11. Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An
12. Back to the Motor League”
13. “Natural Disasters”
14. “With Friends Like These, Who the Fuck Needs Co-Intelpro
15. Purina Hall of Fame
16. And We Thought Nation States Were a Bad Idea”
17. “I Was a Pre-Teen McCarthyist
19. Come to the Sabbat