In 1998, Refused announced that they were over. Quits. Never to reform again and that was that. Several side projects later and here they are, back together again. When I first heard about the reunion, I was vaguely sceptical, despite being completely ecstatic. Why now? I soon realised that there was no other time but now.
The Forum was completely packed. The room was buzzing, and Pettybone (4/5), an all-grrl hardcore punk outfit burst onto the stage wearing “Free Pussy Riot” shirts. Half of them have balaclavas, in deference to their imprisoned comrades. Their particular brand of hardcore is visceral and captivating. There’s a lot of melodic parts, ridiculously dance-your-ass-off parts, but there’s also aggression, anger and a lot of passion. Pettybone are an inspiration to watch. They say that punk rock is about not giving a damn and doing what you want, but Pettybone clearly care a hell of a lot and that’s what makes them incredible. Forget Jessie J parading around in next to nothing at the closing ceremony – Pettybone are what the girls of today need to see. It’s such a shame that they’re breaking up.
And then there was a ridiculous amount of pre-show before Refused (5/5) hit the stage. I was bouncing up and down in exasperation, while Kitteh tried to placate me with the “who would you put in the First Impact ark” game. This is Refused. This is the other other band that convinced me to put my faith in music. I was tense. Then, after the longest wait in the history of ever, the curtain falls, the lights come on and the band explode into Worms Of The Senses. The crowd goes wild. Some of the biggest moshpits I’ve seen in a long time break out. There’s a lightshow to rival Nine Inch Nails. I stand there with my mouth wide open because Refused aren’t fucking dead any more, they’re alive and right in front of me.
Of course, they break into all the “classics”. Refused have nothing but. Refused Party Program, Liberation Frequency, Summerholidays vs Punkroutine all feature, and some of the earlier material like Coup D’Etat, Hook Line And Sinker and Rather Be Dead come to the forefront. I have never seen a band so perfectly in sync while retaining such rawness. This was a night for the whole band, but Dennis Lyxzen steals the show completely. He writhes across the stage as he screams, perfectly in time with the light show. He dives off of anything he can, wriggling his hips as he goes. He is impossible to ignore and when he gives a brief speech about how music and lyrics can change things, can shake governments, then I can’t help but believe him. But of course, none of that would matter if the music couldn’t back it up and the rest of the band perform with such style and it’s really breathtaking. Hardcore doesn’t just need to be shitty shows in tiny basements, it can be big, brash and bold and that’s what Refused are and always have been – ahead of the curve. There’s no new material but there doesn’t need to be – The Shape Of Punk To Come was their magnum opus, but it’s more than relevant today.
Every moment seems like it can’t be topped by the last, but the band go off, the lights go down and they come back and the opening riff of New Noise tears through the venue and that is it. Dennis bounds onto the stage. One… Two… “CAN I SCREAM?!” and the room goes wild. Followed up by Tannhauser and a hell of a lot of dry ice, we walk out inspired, overwhelmed and ready for anything. I have seen a lot of shows. I have seen a lot of bands. Hand on heart without further ado, I can honestly say that was the best show I have ever seen in my life. Mediocre pop-punk bands, say goodbye, because Refused just set the bar atmospherically high.