Brighton looks set to witness some of the most improbable things that have occurred on an Easter Weekend since that guy walked out of his tomb on Easter Sunday a couple of thousand years ago; first of all, the bank holiday Friday was sunny, and judging by the number of people swaying to a beat that’s not yet playing, people have been taking full advantage of that fact. Secondly, despite the repeated and explicit refusals, Refused are back, playing their first show in the city since 1998.
As the rapid intensity of the encircling guitar riffs build and Dennis Lyxzén angrily remonstrates that ‘nothing has changed’, during opener, Elektra, the first beers of the night fly towards the ceiling as the mosh begins to swell.
Any reservations that might have been held about the band’s return appear to subside as the band delivers the devastating punk rock one-two of The Shape of Punk to Come and The Refused Party Program. Lyxzén dad-dances magnificently throughout, swaying his hair in an altogether vain attempt to encourage anything more than toe-tapping nonchalance from the audience.
While the band brutally attack their back catalogue, encyclopaedically guiding us through a 25-year career in hardcore melodramatics, a significant ebb-and-flow becomes apparent. Real enthusiasm is only apparent on tracks from their seminal, genre-shedding third album The Shape of Punk to Come, with other works met with as muted a response as you’d expect at a punk gig. It’s clear that everyone here is 18 years older than the last time they met, and though the band are clearly willing to wind back the years onstage, those off it aren’t quite as capable.
It’s a dramatic change from the last time they were here, Lyxzén comments during an impassioned speech regarding the state of the world. Taking in the refugee crisis currently engulfing Europe, how men should support the feminist plight for equality, and that when they toured the album in Brighton the audience hated them, the ‘pretentious Swedish fruits’, the band continually use their position in the public eye to passionately protest against the status-quo, and change things for the better. Though their calls fall largely on drunk ears tonight, it’s a message that has allowed their music to successfully resonate throughout the years.
After briefly exiting the stage comes the moment that we’ve all been waiting for. Stuttering into life with a bristling excitement, New Noise is met with a notable wave of euphoria. It cascades and builds towards a release of pent-up frustration, the combination of heavy rock guitars and dance beats that have rewritten the rulebook for so many people regarding how punk rock should sound. Those who are familiar with the Concorde 2 will know that it features some classic Victorian-steel pillars along one side of the venue. During the feverish anticipation as the energy and noise levels rise, a couple of audience members scaled the pillars before launching themselves back towards the mosh through the raining beer thrown from below.
It’s the visceral and venomous ending that a band with this wealth of songwriting craft and guile deserve. It may have been 18 years in the making, but as they stand side-by-side and bow to a rapturous response, it’s apparent that this is a group of guys who have rediscovered their love for the scene. And with messages so vital as the ones that they are spreading in their catalogue, that can only be a good thing for the world.
By Lennon Craig