Boy Sets Fire / Defeater - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Boy Sets Fire / Defeater

live in New York (2011)

live show

Couldn't get there in time to see the May 4th Massacre, who actually include a few of Boy Sets Fire's members' sons. True story.

Defeater was pretty perfect as direct support. The hardcore act themselves have plenty of progressive and post-hardcore elements about their sound that made them a great fit as a "newer" act opening for a veteran post-hardcore act playing a big reunion show. It was admittedly weird to see such a stifled reaction to their set, compared to the flood of endless stage dives, pile-ons, and sing-alongs the band's garnered the last few times I've seen them (Krazy Fest; The Fest; Ruiner's last show). But they had a few dedicated fans parked up front and chanting along to Defeater's story songs of war-torn families and alcohol-fueled, emotional damage. They gave the same throat-wrenching, searing performance as always anyway, and at 34 minutes, it was longer for them than usual. They had a fill-in on bass who gelled greatly with them, into the performance and songs just as much as any of his bandmates.

Set list (8:15-8:49):

  1. The Red, White and Blues
  2. Warm Blood Rush
  3. Blessed Burden
  4. The Bite and Sting
  5. Empty Glass
  6. Prophet in Plain Clothes
  7. Home Ain't Never Home
  8. A Wound and a Scar
  9. Cowardice

I've seen boysetsfire just once before: A Long Island show in 2006 that came just two months before they announced their breakup. If you were at that particular show, the breakup announcement wouldn't have been surprising; the band's fanbase had seemed to wane over the years, and back at the 2006 show there were maybe 30 people watching their set, and even less were actually familiar with them. This was a completely different scenario: The 300-capacity Studio at Webster Hall was filled likely beyond its maximum occupancy, and many were losing their minds. The audience here felt like a strange, often sweaty and sloppy mix of bros, normals, ex-Warped Tour attendees and scattered, often cross-armed hardcore kids, but they all went off at some point, engaging the band through just about every song. Whether that meant grabbing frontman Nathan Gray and fighting for mic time, surfing above the crowd so high they'd be kicking the venue lights, or opening up the floor with various mosh forms (one dude literally looked like he was boxing in place), there was never really a dull moment.

Some live reviews might dwell too heavily on the set list itself, but this is one that warrants it, because the set list was just weird. They opened with two songs from the oft-maligned Tomorrow Come Today (2003)–a surprising way to kick things off given what I thought was a generally negative reaction to that record. But the crowd exploded for "Release the Dogs" and "Eviction Article", and the band would only play one more song from it, anyway ("Handful of Redemption"). It would also take BSF eight songs to break the surface of 2000's After the Eulogy, both my personal favorite of theirs and probably a majority of their fanbase's, too. Then, after playing "Twelve Step Hammer Program", they ignored AtE until the end, when they closed with four straight tracks from it. At one point in the set, they played nearly five consecutive songs from 2006's The Misery Index: Notes from the Plague Years, but smack in the middle of that was a(n admittedly really well-done and somehow fitting, falsetto and all) cover of Radiohead's "Electioneering" (off 1997's lauded OK Computer, of course). The Misery Index got the most love from the band with seven songs played overall; fair enough, since they broke up only months after that album's release and probably didn't get many opportunities to actually play its songs.

That being said, boysetsfire played quite well. Road-tested from their recent European trek, they played a fiery 76 minutes with impressive stamina and a looseness that didn't deter from the songs' individual performances. Even if I felt out of the loop with a handful of cuts (never heard Tomorrow Come Today, don't really intend to, and some of the really old songs like "Cavity" don't do much for me), it was a captivating show.

Set list (9:28-10:44):
  1. Release the Dogs
  2. Eviction Article
  3. Cavity
  4. Walk Astray
  5. In Hope
  6. Empire
  7. Pure
  8. Twelve Step Hammer Program
  9. With Cold Eyes
  10. Requiem
  11. The Misery Index
  12. Electioneering [Radiohead cover]
  13. Final Communiqué
  14. Falling Out Theme
  15. Handful of Redemption
  16. My Life in the Knife Trade
  17. The Force Majeure
  18. After the Eulogy
  19. Rookie