November 5th, Portsmouth Pyramids
Having only recently come around to appreciation of the hardcore/punk rock scene that Alexisonfire epitomise, I was unsure what to expect from their show at the Pyramids. When I was told, by a rather terrifying individual, that he was going to ‘two-step’ on my face, I was all but ready to hot-foot it back to safety.
But, I stood my ground, lasted a full 90 minute set, and left not only with my face intact, but with a profound respect and admiration for the Canadian quintet.
The release of the Dog’s Blood EP, and before that, the widely renowned Old Crows, Young Cardinals saw Alexisonfire take a direction that many die-hard fans may not have approved of. Clean vocals had usually been the domain of Dallas Green, whilst screemo-esque lyricism came from George Pettit, but Pettit tried his hand at ‘real’ vocals on these two records, to varying degrees of success. And although Pettit could be criticised for pandering to the mainstream musical requirements, it actually brought an interesting musical dynamic to Alexisonfire, and to this show in particular.
The set opened with a true sucker punch of a trio, beginning with ‘Young Cardinals’, ‘Mailbox Arson’ and ‘Boiled Frogs’. In those 10 minutes, Alexisonfire demonstrated what makes them a fantastic live act – Pettit was topless, Green was calm and serene, and the music was intense and thick. It was also completely flawless, the quintet skipping over complicated rhythms and riffs like they were nothing. Given that one of the main criticisms of the genre to which belong is that it is a hotchpotch of noise with no sense to it, the Canadian quintet exhibit a sound that is pristine and crisp, even when clean vocals and guitars are not present. It was also amazing to see an amalgamation of different sounds and personalities on stage – Dallas and George should not work on the stage space by rights, but somehow they complement each other expertly, ones serenity balancing the other ferocity.
In all, this was a fantastic show. It was hot and grimy yet chilling and beautiful at the same time. Personal highlights came mostly from the encore, in which ‘The Northern’ and ‘Happiness by the Killowatt’ feature, both of which provided an apt end to an amazing night. There were times when the intensity of the set and the crowd were completely overwhelming, but this only led to greater enjoyment of the dense and rich sound that the Canadian outfit were showcasing. It was an unexpected gem of an evening, demonstrating that hardcore music is anything but mindless noise.