Alexisonfire at Manchester Academy 2.
Standing in the blinding light and sweat-heavy air of Manchester Academy 2, enveloped in the soaring vocal of Dallas Green for opening song 'Young Cardinals', you get a real sense of what it actually feels like to be 'blown away' by a band. Incidentally I also went and saw 'Back To The Future' at the cinema in the same week... do you remember the opening sequence in which Marty McFly enters Doc Brown's lab, illicitly plugs his guitar into an amp taking up most of the room and gets instantly flung back ten feet through the air? That's what we're talking about.
Up until their arrival on stage, the crowd had been strangely unreceptive and almost frosty in face of two roasting hot support acts; The Computers and Chickenhawk. They threw everything they had at their audience in two superb sets but only managing something of a gradual thaw. It was sort of like when you try buttering your bread with butter straight out of the fridge. Most frustrating indeed. Less crumbs and ruined sandwiches in this instance however.
A live set from Alexisonfire is something of an intense experience. For those of us too old and too concerned about how dishevelled they look at the end of the gig to consider entering the densest area of the pit, the very nature of their music gives you a feeling like you were there right in the centre of it. Sans crush. Involving, atmospheric, anthemic. It is a performance of mutual respect; the band clearly pour every ounce of energy they can muster into every bar of music delivered, and the audience in turn will respond, arms aloft, every word sung back with devoted adoration.
The set itself was very much 'Crisis' and 'Old Crows Young Cardinals', including back-to-back favourites like 'Mailbox Arson', Boiled Frogs' and 'Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints'; each musician playing their role to perfection. The schizophrenic energy bouncing between the frenzied bounding of testosterone incarnate, George Pettit, and the smooth, beautiful melodies of the emotion-laden vocal of Dallas Green produces something truly incredible. The gravelly voice of lead guitarist Wade MacNeil, particularly in 'Keep It On Wax', tying everything all together so neatly would give the very Gods of Rock n' Roll something to swoon over.
The energy that they possess as a band knows no bounds. There was never a time where anything was allowed to settle or grow stale. Every minute of the set was approached at break-neck speed and ferocity, the movement on stage mirroring that within the audience. If Chris Steele had a pedometer attached during the course of the show he would have probably clocked up a fair few miles with all the dynamic prowling he did on stage bringing his mucky bass-lines to life. The pummelling beat of the band driving this demand for movement owes a lot of credit to drummer Jordan Hastings, whose talent is unjustly too easy to take for granted until you experience his music live. When the military-style syncopation of the 'Old Crows' chorus kicked in, it was like the first time of discovering the excitement of popping candy all over again.
The set gave a taste of new material with 'Dog's Blood' from their new EP being performed before a sublime performance of 'This Could Be Anywhere In The World' whipped up the most impassioned in the crowd near to explosion. The show closed on 'Accidents', which was the only song on the set list featured from 'Watch Out!' It feels nothing less than being a spoilt brat to complain about the set offered, but if there could have been just one or two tracks from the aforementioned or indeed the self-titled debut, it would have been, dare I say it, even better.
Having witnessed a full seven minute plus version of 'Happiness By The Kilowatt' at two of their shows last year, there is something to be said for the Alexisonfire old school. Regardless, this was an absolutely stunning show from an incredible band.