Tonight’s show at the prestigious Brixton Academy hosts the beginning of the final chapter of the most well loved post-hardcore band of the past decade; a band that spawned a plethora of imitators all trying to capitalise on the band’s unique and dynamic emotional tension. After somewhat fizzling out back in 2010 after the release of their confused E.P Dog’s Blood, it seems that these handful of final shows have reminded the thousands in the venue, as well as the many more left without tickets, just how much these five unassuming Canadians meant to so many people.
As the venue fills, Brighton hardcore heroes The Ghost Of A Thousand take to the huge stage to unleash their rock n’ roll tinged hardcore. Although they came out of retirement to play this show at the behest of the headliners, Ghost are every bit the tight, well oiled punk machine they used to be. At first, the crowd greet the band with reserved politeness for the antagonistic no-holds-barred opener ‘Left For Dead’, but the rock n’ roll inspired ‘Bright Lights’ gets those at the front moving. ‘Up To You’ ups the ante, with vocalist Tom Lacey heading into the crowd as fans scramble for the mic. Lacey produces the quote of the night, perfectly summing up the predicament of both bands: “They say you play Brixton academy twice in your career, once on the way up and once on the way down. It’s nice to be back.” ‘Black Art Number One’ sees the small rowdy gaggle at the front throwing themselves around the pit as if their lives depended on it before final song ‘Bored Of Math’ comes to a close with three members of the band held aloft by the crowd.
Tonight the ravenous crowd will be treated to a whopping twenty-three song set spanning all of two hours and encompassing every Alexisonfire release from their debut through to their Dog’s Blood E.P. As the lights go down and the Alexisonfire banner descends at the back of atmospherically lit the stage the levels of excitement is almost unbearable and as the band take to the stage they’re greeted by deafening screams from both sexes. The opening chiming notes of ‘Crisis’ send the crowd surging towards the front as vocalist George Pettit’s characteristic screams erupt from the cavernous stage, the crowd now a writhing mass of crushed bodies. As the song reaches the chorus Dallas Green’s vocals are pretty much drowned out by the baying crowd. ‘Get Fighted’ is the perfect follower, a song about fashion and hairstyles being irrelevant and having a good time taking precedent. ‘Waterwings’ from their 2001 debut album receives a raucous response even though a vast majority of the crowd would still have been a few years off their teens when it was released. ‘Old Crows’ has the audience pogoing along to the bouncy punk riff, the chorus of “We are not the kids we used to be” very much echoing with the crowd and the teenage years that Alexisonfire provided the soundtrack to. ‘Control’ has the crowd replicating every nuance of Dallas Green’s impossibly sumptuous voice and is the track that perhaps best showcases the band’s masterful use of dynamics that made their 2004 album Watch Out! so brilliant. The slow burning intro to ‘You Burn First’ has the audience resembling a coiled spring, exploding as George Pettit’s screams signal the audience to go completely batshit, his now thirty year old frame projecting his grating scream just as fervently as he did ten years ago. ‘We Are The Sound’s’ call and response interlude appears deafening but this seems tame compared to ‘This Could Be Anywhere In The World’ which has every member of the five thousand strong audience sing and scream back every single word of the song that became a global hit. ‘Dog’s Blood’ gives a glimpse of the direction the band would have headed in, its more experimental leanings still retaining the classic Alexis clean vocal and screaming dynamic. ‘Accept Crime’ shines a light on the band’s more outspoken and political output, advocating free speech and freedom of expression by declaring “We will be free/ To use our bodies as we please”. ‘Boiled Frogs’ and ‘Drunks, Lovers, Sinners & Saints’ boast some of the band’s biggest choruses and reiterates why Crisis was such a successful album. ‘Charlie Sheen vs Henry Rollins’ is the surprise of the night, a slightly obscure track that draws a blank with some but for those in the know it is a welcome surprise. Pettit takes to the organ for the relatively slow paced ‘The Northern’ with Dallas’ voice soaring and showing no signs of fatigue after twenty songs. ‘Accidents’ is greeted like an anthem, the sweaty throng throwing their weary bodies around the various pits whilst the chorus and “whoahhhs” of the interlude are shouted back at the band by hoarse vocals chords. Returning to the stage after the inevitable encore, the slow-paced off-kilter rhythms of ‘Rough Hands’ give way to the expansive punk rock of ‘Young Cardinals’, giving the more rowdy fans a last chance to throw their sweaty bodies into each other. A sprawling rendition of ‘Happiness By The Kilowatt’ ends the show in positively epic fashion. The song falls and rises in several crescendos, with Dallas’ voice never faltering before the song ends in a piercing wail of feedback.
Sure, the band could have benefitted from a little more rehearsal but this is cynical nit-picking in an otherwise perfect performance from a band that helped define modern heavy music as we now know it. I think it is fair to say, that no one leaves Brixton Academy with a shred of disappointment.