So, one of the UK's most (over)hyped bands in living memory finally finish their six-month attempted gatecrash of the U.S. hardcore/punk scene and return home, bringing California's Set Your Goals and Canada's Fucked Up with them to launch their biggest UK tour to date.
SSS, a Liverpool-based straight-up hardcore punk band (that's where the Beatles came from, for those not too hot on UK geography) actually opened the night, but were really quite bad, so I shall ignore them.
Fucked Up came on, and hit the stage with me in high hopes. Their eighteen (approximately) stone frontman is well known for his crazy live antics, and indeed, the band roared up and little more than three or four seconds in, he launched his incredibly large frame towards the front row. Later in the set, he would strip to his boxers, pull off a breathtaking crowdsurf (for only five or so seconds, but the largest man I've ever seen held up by a bunch of teenagers) and smash a number of beer cans on his bald head until they exploded. Stunts and tricks perhaps, but massively entertaining. The band were relatively tight and interesting too, and me and my friend picked up their EP on the way out at the end of the night, where most of the tracks weigh in at a staggerinig six and seven minutes long.
Next, Set Your Goals came to the stage. Now, I will admit to not being much of a fan of their album Mutiny! and their appearance proved somewhat controversial. Half the kids lapped it up, throwing themselves left, right and centre in approvement, whilst the other half stood unflinchingly still, occasionally shooting dissaproving looks. At one point, a chorus of boos from the unhappy half caused the band to criticise the crowd's reaction, which frankly did not help endear them. Music-wise, they were adequate, but did not light up the stage. The dual vocalist approach is a hard one to pull off and they didn't do very well; in fact, Matt Wilson's harmony vocals quickly became weak and annoying, whilst his stage presence was also pretty poor. I can't help but feel this band does not need two vocalists and Jordan Brown is by far the more talented of the two. Furthermore, their set suffered from effectively being Mutiny! played with the best tracks at the start and the end, making a feeble fifteen minutes in the middle, where even the hardcore fans of the band quieted down. Set Your Goals aren't a bad band, but could be much much better.
Then came Frank Carter and Gallows, who launched straight into their set at full speed. Before long, Carter was climbing the balcony all the way around the arena (closed off for this gig) and even dangling from it upside down, like some kind of ginger monkey, a good 15 ft. from the swarms of people below. "Abandon Ship" almost brought the house down, preceding a huge circle pit for a Black Flag cover and Carter's continuously immature yet brilliant banter with the crowd. Highlights included him getting very angry upon someone in the crowd producing a glowstick ("This is not a ******* Enter Shikari concert; rave died in 1990 for a good reason"), responding to crowd insults ("Who the **** just called me ginger? If you're gonna insult me, at least point out the fact I've got a small ****") and him revealing the night before in Norwich that he jumped in the crowd and had his shoes nicked and therefore would be taking them off tonight as he was on his last pair. As soon as he launched himself into the crowd, the front row immediatly attempted to steal his socks.
Gallows were tight, energetic, and massively entertaining. Obviously with just one album behind them, the set list was very predictable, but with such a strong record, it avoided the sort of slump suffered by Set Your Goals. Whilst the band are not deserving of the hype spelling them out as the best / only punk/hardcore band out there, I will tell you this: They are certainly fantastic live. All in all, it was a brilliantly entertaining night of punk music and a lovely reminder for me, that for now, all is fine in punkland.