It is profoundly depressing that in 2019 bands of the stature and respectability of Thrice and Refused would get their venue downgraded. Originally slated to appear at the prestigious Brixton Academy, tonight’s show was moved to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire after – presumably – low ticket sales. That two bands, one on a great album one on a good one, cannot pull enough of a crowd to play the venue they deserve is both upsetting and frustrating. The luminaries of their respective genres however do not appear to let this unforeseen consequence get to them…
Beginning with REV001, Refused’s set is a Molotov cocktail of bombast and flair. With the exception of Dennis Lyxzén’s vocals going slightly out of time in Elektra’s verses and bridge, the band are a tightly wound, precise jackhammer of intellectual punk rock. ‘Music taught me about life, politics and feminism’ Lyxzen proclaims as the band rattle through old and new numbers, poignant even more so in these shambolic times than when they were first penned. The one-two punch of The Shape of Punk To Come and Deadly Rhythm is so caustic and violently revolutionary it should scare sitting MPs, and sees the second most voracious reaction to the set.
‘Are you ready for a bunch of Swedish pinkos in tight pants to talk about revolution?’ asks Lyxzen before dedicating Malfire from latest album War Music to the struggles of those in Chile, Hong Kong and more. That song of all the new hits sounds most vibrant and immediate, with the refrain of ‘The tower’s falling down, down, down’ filling the at capacity venue. ‘I don’t want to live in a world where [a man’s role] is patriarchal, violent and abusive’ is the mantra that opens Damaged III, and by the time finale of the now anthemic New Noise comes around, the audience is filled with a fervent fire of anti-establishmentarianism. It is somewhat irritating to see people en masse react only to New Noise as Refused’s music should be cherished in all its forms. The fact that parts of the set are met with a muted response by the vast majority leaves a cold feeling on the soul, but at least the big hitters get people riled up.
Though billed as a co-headliner, tonight was absolutely a Thrice show. From the opening notes of Only Us from latest opus, Palms, the mighty crowd is whipped up into an emotional frenzy, hanging off Dustin Kensrue’s every word. Kensrue himself sounds every bit as vital and arresting live as he does on record, and this makes for passionate participation from the hulking crowd. It is starkly apparent through the deafening sing-alongs of Image of The Invisible and the new legendary The Artist In the Ambulance, that the majority of the crowd is here for Thrice, and they perform as if their lives depend on it.
Hands are clapped from front to back as Thrice work their way through a setlist filled with classic material and new works, and the reverence in the audience is palpable. The dynamic lighting of the show accentuates the energetic performance from every member of the band as they glide around the stage effortlessly. By the time the finale of Beyond the Pines beautifully draws proceedings to a close, there is a cathartic energy in the room. Demons have been expelled and emotions are wrought with visceral intensity. It is a truly wonderful set, filled with numbers that get a strong crowd moving with urgency. [8.5]