Shake­spear­ian pits and anti-trump rants reign as THE USED hit the cap­i­tal for a night of crazi­ness

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Even 18 years into the ca­reer of his band The Used, Bert Mc­cracken con­tin­ues to do things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. And so it is that af­ter the Utah post-hard­core heroes open with Take It Away and The Bird And The Worm, and their front­man toasts the crowd with a cup of tea – re­mov­ing the bag and toss­ing it into the throng – he in­sti­gates “some­thing that’s never been seen in Lon­don be­fore.” This en­tails the for­ma­tion of “a big, fat mosh­pit” sound­tracked by Bert recit­ing a lengthy pas­sage from Shake­speare’s Twelfth Night. It’s all part of the 36-year-old’s de­sire to find in­ven­tive ways to bring this “big happy fuck­ing fam­ily” to­gether. And while the ac­ri­mo­nious de­par­ture of The Used’s gui­tarist Justin Shekoski in May, and the re­strain­ing or­der his former band­mates sub­se­quently filed against him, sug­gest this dy­namic can be wob­bly at times, tonight is largely a har­mo­nious, joy­ous oc­ca­sion where good vibes are spread lib­er­ally.

First, how­ever, come Lowlives, fea­tur­ing former The De­filed front­man Lee Vil­lain, as well as Luke John­son (No De­vo­tion) and Steve Lu­carelli (The Ataris). On pa­per, this eclec­tic line-up sug­gests some­thing weird; in prac­tice, they de­liver a more im­me­di­ate strain of straight-shoot­ing grungy rock, done with ex­actly the sort of gusto you’d ex­pect from the band’s con­stituents.

The Used have sim­i­lar en­ergy to spare, though one charge that could be lev­elled against them is that their shows can be a lit­tle overstuffed. So while you get the gold in the form of songs like I Caught Fire and The Taste Of Ink, as well as a gen­uinely touch­ing cover of Linkin Park’s Shadow Of The Day, you in­vari­ably have to sift through their front­man’s hors­ing around be­fore you can get to it. While the Shake­speare quo­ta­tions are an im­pres­sive test of Bert’s power of re­ten­tion, they even­tu­ally be­come a test of the au­di­ence’s pa­tience, and this rest­less need to pro­vide stim­u­lus oc­ca­sion­ally back­fires. So while his ‘Fuck Trump’ chants suc­cess­fully stoke up the crowd’s col­lec­tive ire into a noisy cho­rus, when he pulls a fan’s Ir­ish flag out of the au­di­ence on to the stage there are boos from some quar­ters, pro­vok­ing the singer to glibly sug­gest, “We’ve got some hooli­gan Brex­iters in here,” and flip them the mid­dle finger. Tonight is also odd be­cause it’s as notable for what’s not in­cluded as what is. This is, af­ter all, the band’s tour in sup­port of this year’s ex­cel­lent new The Canyon al­bum, yet not one song from it is aired. That’s frus­trat­ing, given the record’s epic scope and in­ven­tion that ac­tu­ally fits in with the new re­nais­sance man vibe Bert’s go­ing for pretty well. No-one seems too both­ered about all this, how­ever, be­cause with­out them tonight is es­sen­tially a great­est hits set, cul­mi­nat­ing in what Bert de­scribes as, “The great­est song ever.” Whether he’s re­fer­ring to their run-through of the bril­liant A Box Full Of Sharp Ob­jects or the snip­pet of Nir­vana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit they throw in re­mains un­clear. What’s not, how­ever, is the front­man’s com­mit­ment to his loud as­ser­tion that he fully wel­comes the start of an­other 18 years in The Used. Just tighten it up a lit­tle next time. JAMES HICKIE

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