Alexisonfire

support Anti-Flag + Four Year Strong + The Ghost Of A Thousand
author AP date 14/10/09 venue Forum, London, UK

Last year's Eastpak Antidote tour featured a rather tame line-up consisting of Flogging Molly, Skindred, Street Dogs and Time Again (though some party-minded individuals might disagree) and consequently it was deemed not worth the trip to London to see it. This year's edition, however, featured a far more star-spangled line-up, with the seminal Alexisonfire headlining, and support coming from Anti-Flag, Four Year Strong (originally The Fall Of Troy, who had to cancel their participation due to unforeseen circumstances) and British rising stars The Ghost Of A Thousand. Sounds awesome, said this scribe, bought two tickets, was bailed by his friends, and ended up commuting to London on his own to witness this spectacle.

The Ghost Of A Thousand

Despite being the most energetic of the four bands playing tonight, The Ghost Of A Thousand's hectic performance leaves me disappointed, and it's difficult to put a finger on why this is so. Under normal circumstances Tom Lacey's valiant efforts to engage the crowd - spending most of his time screaming at the barrier or surfing the crowd - would warrant some brownie points, but tonight it all feels too forced and calculated, especially as the remaining members on stage seem to exchange glances with each other for cues for when to switch sides and when to jump around. There's an inescapable stench of premeditation in the air. On top of that my familiarity with the band's music is restricted to one or two songs, and when the music sounds like it repeats itself with every song - coarse shouting and simplistic powerchord driven riffs - I find myself wishing this band off stage and bringing out the big guns. Still, it's hard to fault anything about the performance per se, as this is the kind of stage presence I long for in many of the concerts I attend, and the band's relentless energy on stage deserves some applause.

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Four Year Strong

Ironically, Four Year Strong's performance suffers from the opposite problem. Their music is a real party-starter but their antics leave much to be desired. Obviously it is difficult for a band with two vocalists who double as the two guitarists as well, to thrash about on stage, and on some level the nature of the music itself contradicts going mental, too. But once the novelty of their pop punk to post-hardcore fusion dissolves, I once again find myself restless and checking the time. The fact that now, a week and a half later, the only imprint in my memory of this show is the injection of the intro riff from Slayer's "Raining Blood" into a bridge section in one of Four Year Strong's songs, should be testament to just how anonymous and forgettable the band's support set is. Again though, I do remember it as a solid and professional performance that ticked all the necessary boxes for a passing grade, but without attempting at extra credit.

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Anti-Flag

Anti-Flag kick into their set via some kind of political speech in the background, and head straight into "The Press Corpse" - a wise choice to stir up the crowd, with one of the most memorable choruses the band has written. Once again we are reminded what fine showmen these age old punk rockers are, and suddenly the disappointing opening acts cease to matter. The set progresses with one crowd pleaser after the other, drawing massive singalongs from a now visibly enthused crowd and as ever, urgent, politically charged propaganda is embedded into fun-loving party anthems in an irresistible and seamless manner. We are treated to a good, mixed portion of the band's extensive discography, as well as the expected cover of The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" as the band members amuse themselves (and us) with strange face expressions, twitching, jumping and running around like pre-pubescent children at their very first school disco.

The performance is of course riddled with entertaining perks, like the obligatory megaphone, and Alexisonfire's Wade MacNeil guesting vocals on "The Gre(A)t Depression" to thunderous applause. During some of the band's most energetic moments, bassist Christ Barker leaves his bass behind to go crowd surf, and as the set nears its end, Pat decides that for the last song ("One Trillion Dollars", I think) his drumkit needs to be moved inside the circle pit. Stage technicians help him move the bare essentials down there and surely enough, the entirety of that song is performed surrounded by bewildered fans wanting to touch this cult legend, or to steal a drum stick or two from him as memorabilia. The racket that ensues when Anti-Flag exit the stage is yet again proof that this is one of the best punk bands to witness live, and as usual, their performance tonight leaves little to be desired.

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Setlist:

01. The Press Corpse

02. Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C.

03. You've Got to Die for the Government

04. Turncoat

05. I'd Tell You But...

06. Cities Burn

07. This is the End (For You My Friend)

08. The Economy Is Suffering... Let It Die

09. Should I Stay Or Should I Go (The Clash cover)

10. War Sucks, Let's Party

11. The Gre(A)t Depression

12. Power to the Peaceful

13. One Trillion Dollars

Alexisonfire

With a band like Anti-Flag supporting, there is always a certain pressure on the headliner because the crowd expects them to put on an equally, if not even more exhilarating show. Upping the ante after the boisterous performance just before was going to be no easy task, but this is Alexisonfire after all, one of the most influential and loved screamo acts Canada has to offer. And my God do they live up to the reputation tonight. As soon as the intro track fades and the music explodes, Geroge Pettit charges into the crowd, running on top of their heads before losing his balance and crowd surfing his way through most of the venue while delivering flawless screams to complement Dallas Green's clean vocals on "Heading for the Sun".

From second one, and for the entire first half of the set, the band ploughs ahead full-steam with some of the most up-tempo material in their discography, starting with "Heading for the Sun" and finishing with the seminal "Waterwings" before calming down for the calmer "Rough Hands". During these first 40 minutes two things become abundantly clear. The first is that Dallas is an absolutely breathtaking vocalist, whose unique voice does not depend on cheap effects and auto-tune, and what he can do on record he does even better in a live setting. Simply listening to his chilling voice alone makes this concert worthwhile, and warrants this band tremendous respect from me (and from every soul inside the Forum tonight without a doubt). During some songs Wade also contributes slightly lower notes in harmony with Dallas, and it's these moments in particular that send shivers down my spine. Complemented by a near-perfect mix, and George's fantastic screams, the vocals that Alexisonfire boasts are the absolute highlight of their show.

The second thing is that this band can put on a show. Even during the rare calm moments where each member constrains himself to his respective spot on stage, the band plays with such overwhelming confidence and conviction that I have a hard time recalling being so hypnotised by a band so completely before. There isn't a song played that does not constantly resound in the crowd and because almost every person inside the Forum is almost certainly a fan of Alexisonfire, the atmosphere leaves me at a loss for words.

I am no expert when it comes to Alexisonfire's discography, but my impression is that most of the classics receive an airing tonight (except for "44 Caliber Love Letter", which hardly matters to me since that song does not rank anywhere close to my favorites by this band). Still, the new songs sound as fantastic tonight, and if you felt that the direction that "Old Crows / Young Cardinals" took the band was as disappointing as it was surprising, wait till you hear those songs live. "Young Cardinals" and "Born and Raised", two show highlights, for example, sound like absolutely monumental stadium rock anthems when they receive the proper response from the crowd. Other noteworthy pieces include the always excellent crowd-pleaser "This Could Be Anywhere in the World" and the fantastic "Happiness By The Kilowatt", a breathtaking crescendo which makes for a finale to remember.

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Setlist:

01. Heading for the Sun

02. Boiled Frogs

03. We Are the Sound

04. Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints

05. No Transitory

06. Young Cardinals

07. Waterwings

08. Rough Hands

09. Born and Raised

10. This Could Be Anywhere in the World

11. Accept Crime

12. Accidents

--Encore--

13. Old Crows

14. Happiness by the Kilowatt

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