Live Reviews : Refused, Sick Of It All & High Tension @ Prince Bandroom, Melbourne 25/01/2017
Featuring a monumental lineup consisting of legendary punks, Refused, hardcore punk heavyweights, Sick Of It All, and explosive local outfit High Tension, this mixed bill delivered a history lesson to a sold out Prince Bandroom. The first of two nights, this show explored the shape of punk that has come to influence and inspire many after them.
Kicking off the evening, High Tension pummelled their way through a half-hour aural assault that demanded the attention of early arriving revellers. Vocalist, Karina Utomo, is a powerhouse on stage, inciting fear and admiration with her powerful voice and trademark death stare fixated upon the audience. The dominating riffs, pulverising drums and grooving bass saw the Melbourne locals play a tight set that featured heavily from their 2015 album ‘Bully’. Tracks such as Sports and Killed By Life demonstrate the creative ferocity of the band.
By the time Utomo finishes the set within the pit itself, the swelling room is captivated by their electricity. High Tension acknowledges their hometown crowd and appears humbled to have appeared on such a lineup. Having created quite a name for themselves within Australia, High Tension’s fiercely uncompromising attitude and reputation in a live setting is solidified in an intensely heavy set.
Sick Of It All take to the stage next, and although it takes a good portion of their set for the crowd to feel loose enough to dance and sing along, the band waste no time in kicking the night into overdrive. Celebrating their 30 year anniversary recently, Sick Of It All show no signs of slowing down, particularly as they played tracks from last year’s EP When The Smoke Clears. Tonight however is seen as a celebration of everything that the punks have achieved across their career, with tracks spanning right back to their debut Blood, Sweat and No Tears. Staples such as Clobberin’ Time and Injustice System have withstood the test of time, perfectly demonstrating how vital their sound has been to the hardcore movement. Drummer, Armand Majidi, plays at break-neck speed without missing a single beat, whilst bassist, Craig Setari, chugs along to some of the most thrashing riffs ever heard from New York. Guitarist, Pete Koller, and his brother, Lou Koller on vocal duties, dash around the stage frantically the entire night.
Although subdued at first, Lou can summon a crowd like very few frontmen can, with his calls for the crowd to shout along and dance met almost instantaneously. Highlights from the set included an almost impromptu performance of No Cure, the first cut from their iconic Scratch the Surface album, which saw the band looking at each other questioningly as to how it went exactly. Despite the concerns, the band nailed it, with fans losing it accordingly. For a group with such an extensive back catalogue, their hour-long set tonight is filled with just the right balance of old and new, with a humbled Lou explaining how much Australia has meant to them, as well as how punk and hardcore is their life and their business. The passion that this New York hardcore group bring to St Kilda tonight is a testament to their legacy, with fans new and old delighted by the finest that New York has to offer. For a bunch of self-described middle aged men who hate everything, Sick Of It All still belt it out with more energy and passion than most.
Refused enter to a brooding feedback that sees drummer, David Sandström, literally punching the drums as he emerges from the yellowing light across the stage. A full Prince Bandroom erupts as the Swedish punk legends take the audience on an electrifying ride for the first time in five years. Opening with Servants of Death from their most recent effort Freedom, Refused bring an energy and presence that sends the audience into a noise-filled trance. From the moment The Shape of Punk to Come drops, the audience is sent into a fury of flying bodies and raised fists. Set amongst constantly changing and throbbing strobe lighting, the band pushes their art upon the rapturous crowd. Vocalist, Dennis Lyxzén, struts the stage, performing acrobats, dances and, gracefully twirls across the entire stage with a swagger that is reminiscent of Iggy Pop or Nick Cave. Lyxzén’s voice is in perfect form as he performs anthems that are now 21 years old such as Coup d’état and Rather Be Dead, which sees the invigorating frontman jump into the crowd as the fists and shouting surround him.
Although Refused has achieved a lot the past several years, there is an undoubtable sense that many here tonight are here to see tracks from 1998’s masterpiece The Shape of Punk to Come. The palpable passion that is conjured from punters and the band alike is unquestionable during The Refused Party Program and The Deadly Rhythm, which happened to feature a wonderfully suited interlude that saw guitarists Kristofer Steen and Mattias Bärjed jamming to Slayer’s Raining Blood. Newer cuts such as Dawkins Christ and Thought is Blood manage to bring a vibrant new flair into the picture, with the group reproducing these tracks elaborately within a live setting.
As the band finished their initial set, Lyxzén provided somewhat of a humbled history and story behind the band, their political ideals, and their aspirations for the future. Across his passionately intense statements, Lyxzén declared that the time for capitalism to be demolished is now, for the unequal barriers that exist between males and female to be torn down, and in a humble tribute to Sick of it All, how a simple punk band might not change the world, but that it can change your world. He called for a complete support of all local talent, claiming that they need the support more than Refused ever do. It is for these views that Refused have long been revered as being forward thinking with their music. Their live performances and their legacy remains so strong despite being out of action for so long, strongly owed to their passion for the underground and the unspoken. As Lyxzén calls for change, the band builds into the ultimate crowd pleasing encore of New Noise, which sees the entire venue screaming, shouting, and following that impassioned call for a new voice. Closing track, Tannhäuser / Derivè is absolutely enthralling as the band whirls across the stage and provides a noise-filled conclusion that leave the audience with their spines well and truly tingled.
On a night in which any of these three bands could have been the headliners, tonight felt much more vital than a greatest hits or reunion tour. Sick Of It All and Refused have left audiences not only tonight, but for decades collectively crying out for more. Lyxzén said it best during the evening as he claimed that art and music can hold so much influence over the world, with this gig demonstrating that even the smallest of bands and the smallest of voices can change the world for a few, even if only for a night.