Cancer Bats / The Plight / SSS - live in Birmingham (Cover Artwork)

Cancer Bats / The Plight / SSS

live in Birmingham (2009)

live show

Just last October, I saw Cancer Bats supporting Funeral for a Friend; so unknown were they to that crowd that frontman Liam Cormier was able to man the T-shirt stand after their set with very little harassment (bar me). They seemed to have grown exponentially since then, though not without a lot of effort on their part. Tonight was the 13th night of the 16-date Vans ‘Off the Wall' tour -- then they're off to Australia, and then to their native Canada; this after a two-month trudge across North America on the Taste of Chaos tour. Let's hope they weren't too exhausted.

The room was already packed out when Short Sharp Shock take to the stage. With a vocalist who looked like he's been doing this for longer than most of the crowd have been alive, their thrashy explosions of ire got an enthusiastic response. Between-song football banter and audience participation in classic "The Beast" interspersed the brutal onslaught of this slick set.

Up next was one of the UK's most promising hardcore acts. Coupling the brutality of hammers with the swing of rockabilly, the Plight were reminiscent of Ghost of a Thousand, Every Time I Die or, indeed, tonight's headliners. But those groovy basslines and that broken-glass voice on songs like "Ball and Chain" made everybody want to shake it, and they had a more accessible and party-time vibe than their counterparts. Despite being youthful and ballsy, there was no pretense here; it was all a bit tongue-in-cheek, with clear classic influences, and seemed just so…honest, somehow. They were as relentlessly and devotedly energetic as the Stooges, whose T-shirt guitarist Lewis wore. "Pull the Trigger" was such an undeniably swinging bulldozer of a song that after their set, people were looking at each other, a little dumbstruck, thinking they may have a new favourite band.

But then, along come Cancer Bats. Hard to believe their debut was only released in 2006, and Hail Destroyer just last year; it seemed they were playing classic after classic. Maybe it's the songwriting -- they've got the art down to a tee. The riffs bludgeoned the body as hard as the crowd bludgeoned each other; the lyrics were bawled and spat out, full of rage and the urge to annihilate; "100 Grand Canyon" had lots of crowd surfers, "Lucifer's Rocking Chair" saw slow-motion head banging, the crowd knew every word to "Pneumonia Hawk," and "Sorceress" involved lots of angry fist-shaking (well, it is about a cheating girlfriend). The barrage was endless, each song delivered with a blistering, breakneck vigour -- turned out they're not exhausted, not in the least. It was rare to see a band with this much raucous, furious energy. Finally, "Hail Destroyer" tore the place down, Cormier leaning out over the front rows, dripping sweat onto the already-drenched and delighted crowd, and it was all over far too soon. Children of nothing, this is our band: Hail Cancer Bats.