BLACK PEAKS UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL. JUST ASK WILL GARDNER…
Shakespearian pits and anti-trump rants reign as THE USED hit the capital for a night of craziness
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