Bob Vylan have quickly ascended through the ranks in the last 12 months, from opening the second stage at Standon Calling, supporting Biffy Clyro on their UK tour, to achieving a Top 20 album all off their own backs is pretty astounding, and when you see the band live, it’s very easy to see why.
The duo (one vocalist, one drummer) saunter on to the stage of The Joiners in Southampton and immediately, charismatic frontman Bob has the audience eating out of his palm, even before announcing that they had decided to give one of their favourite venues a slightly longer set and then proceeds to explain for the uninitiated (don’t think there’s many here to be honest) that their shows always start the same way, with some light stretching and meditation, as he proceeds to do exactly that over an instrumental version of Down.
It’s always been very admirable that Bob Vylan present themselves in this way, with so much through a backing track as one can’t help but think “what if something goes wrong with it?” Perhaps the technology has come a long way and that’s not really any issue, either way, it is as the show begins that it really hits home that there are people from a wide spectrum of ages here, from the college kids, to people who probably have or are about to have grandchildren and that really speaks to how Bob Vylan connect with their audience, and how the lyrics are probably just as big a part of that as, the music and performance.
Having always described the pair as “a punkier, angrier Rage Against The Machine from London” it was interesting to note that they are often referred to as “punk/grime”, which now seems a lot more obvious, but whichever mash up of styles and artists people want to describe Vylan as, it doesn’t matter because it undoubtedly works.
Smashing through bangers such as I Heard You Want Your Country Back, He Sold Guns and GDP, our heavily dreadlocked MC then takes an Eddie Vedder style leap into the crowd, proving that stage diving is alive and well in 2022, before leading us into a surprisingly early in the set rendition of We Live Here and then into Northern Line.
From about the halfway point, until the end, Bob (or Bobby, or whatever his mum named him) throws out bottles of water for the crowd to keep them hydrated while they mosh in the sweat box up the front, which is pretty considerate and shares with the room, before taking fan requests (Pulled Pork got picked) that Bob Vylan are the only British band to ever record, produce, mix and release an album on their own record label and have it chart – a testament to the band’s hard work and talent, which brings us neatly to the revelation that drummer Bobbie (or Vylan or whatever his mum named him) has been playing the entire set (and therefore, probably tour) with a leg brace on and hasn’t dropped a single beat.
Pretty Songs drops and then Wicked & Bad closes the show, but not before a very large portion of the audience are brought up on stage to rock out and have a moment with the boys, who seem to have swapped out encores for the much more generous gesture of having a quick break to cool-down, etc. and then heading to the front to meet and greet anyone in attendance.
Once again an absolutely blinding performance by Bob Vylan ensuring everyone went home satisfied, except for one unanswered question – what the fuck were the fruit machines on stage for?