Live: Against Me! – O2 Academy Birmingham 2, 3/6/10

Originally by Ripper, posted on 10/6/10.

On 31st October 2007, something momentous happened. Normally, Halloween is a very big deal for me. Everyone else’s favourite holiday is Christmas and shit like that, but I’m a huge advocate of Halloween. However, I forsook my usual party/trick or treating/movie fest (whatever my friends were into at that point in time) and went to go see Against Me! in Birmingham. I’d seen some shows in my time, but I’d never seen anything like that. And I met fightclubsandwich for the first time, but that’s a story for another time. Therefore, I went into this show with very high expectations and was fully prepared for disappointment. I was also bringing along a very sickly friend – Sarah had caught some stomach bug but wasn’t prepared to miss the show – and I had a shit ton of sunburn from an afternoon of watching people get drunk in a field. At the very least, it was going to be an interesting night, and I was comforted in the knowledge that fightclubsandwich would be there with her boyfriend, so I knew it wouldn’t be a terrible night.

And then I momentarily forgot how fucking good Against Me! are.

But first, there was a support band. Canterbury are a band I saw play with my ex’s band a good number of years ago. To this day, I maintain that the sticker one of them gave me is one of the most adhesive things I’ve ever had in my life and it’s still stuck to my dresser. The first time I saw Canterbury, I wasn’t paying much attention, but I didn’t like them very much. It seemed ridiculously generic. I can say now though, that with my full attention, they’ve much improved. While not in line with the folk punk glory that is Against Me!, they played slightly more non-generic rock music that has the potential to be very catchy. It’s clear that there’s a bit of a Muse influence in there with some of the guitar, but old Muse, leading to a much more energetic set. The band themselves were really going for it, and as they are young and hopeful, they looked pretty adorable, like kids playing rock stars. They had a somewhat enthusiastic following, probably brothers, sisters and girlfriends, but there’s enough ‘la la la’s’ in there to form a good singalong. Surprisingly, for a support band, the sound quality was great and the band themselves sounded well rehearsed and to be honest, quite impressive. They might have looked like they were playing rock star, but I really hope that one day, that dream becomes fully fledged. They certainly seem like they work hard enough for that to be a reality.

Against Me! completely destroyed the venue though. While not packed out to full capacity, it felt as if the whole world was there. As lame as it sounds, moments like last night are the kind of moments I live for – watching something incredible, fists in air with a bunch of people who don’t even know your name, but they know what’s inside you, what makes your heart beat, because that’s what makes theirs beat too. It’s almost impossible to describe unless you’ve experienced it. And oh, I experienced it. I experienced it so much that my sunburn hurt. A lot. Because that’s what happens every time I go to see Against Me! – I jump around like a crazy person, throw myself around into other people doing the same and lose my voice because I’m screaming my throat out. I am currently suffering because of it, but it’s not a show unless I’m not.

And a show it was. Against Me! had their own light set put up, which I can only imagine was torture for the sake of aesthetics – Tom Gabel was looking excessively sweaty by the end of the set, Andrew Seward less so, but he has a beard to soak it up – but damn, did it look cool. In imitation of the new ‘White Crosses’ cover, there were dressing room bulbs stacked all around the set, lighting up with every ‘woah’, and it was pretty awesome. fightclubsandwich and I were commenting greatly on how classy it looked. For the songs from ‘White Crosses’, the band brought out a keyboardist, who had the most incredible curly moustache I’ve ever seen and a snazzy trilby. He may or may not be from The World/Inferno Friendship Society, but as I don’t have internet from where I’m writing this, I’m going to leave that research to you.(Just discovered that it’s Franz Nicolay from The Hold Steady – thanks to tayzowns from Last.FM for that one!) And as much as I complained previously that the amount of keyboard made ‘White Crosses’ seem more like a Journey album than an Against Me! album, I have to admit that it did bring an entirely new dimension to their sound and well… it was fun! People forget that because Against Me! are really politically minded in some respects that their music is pretty fun to sing along to, so why not?

The set itself was very evenly put together. Of course, it was heavily weighted towards material from ‘White Crosses’ as they played the title song of the album, new single ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’, ‘Suffocation’, ‘High Pressure Low’ and probably other things that I can’t remember. It was surprising to see how many people there knew the words, but then again, I guess it did get leaked, and Tom did put the lyrics up on his blog for everyone who downloaded it. What a gent. I found it amusing that he had the cheek to play a song from his solo EP, but if I had to place it, I’d say that ‘Amputations’ is a lot more of an Against Me! song than it is a Tom Gabel song, and it fitted right in with the set. I can honestly say though that only me and about five other people were singing along to it though. They pleased the crowd with a few songs from ‘Reinventing Axl Rose’ including ‘Baby, I’m An Anarchist’, which they very rarely play. There was a reasonable amount from each album, including most of the singles and ‘Sink.Florida.Sink’ which happens to be not only one of my favourite Against Me! songs, but one of my favourite songs ever. There was plenty to shout about in ‘Miami’, which sounded complete with the addition of the keyboard.

Against Me! have a great reputation as a live band to uphold, and they certainly did just that. While I was a little disappointed with the lack of Warren, due to his departure to pastures Floridian and gatory, George seemed to fit right in with the dynamic and everything sounded perfect. One of my favourite things about Against Me! is the way that James, Tom and Andrew harmonise and when this is accomplished live, that’s the mark of good musicians. Because regardless of what people think, punks can play music well in this day and age. Tom’s voice may be a bit more refined these days, but it’s not lacking any of the vitriol and passion it’s always had and as a unit, the band perform together perfectly. While they’re not really ones to mix things up a bit, they don’t need to, because seriously, every song is great as it is. There’s not a single song that I can say is bad by this band.

And it really says a lot when my only disappointment is that Tom was playing a Telecaster instead of a Rickenbacker.

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