When the doors to the venue open at seven, the eighteen year olds who have been at the front of the queue for a couple of hours get told off by security for sprinting towards the barrier and a guy who looks like Jesus hands me a leaflet for upcoming events around Manchester. I sit down and read through since the band listed as 'the Refused' won't be on until 9:15, but the only thing that stands out to me is that Manchester's Institute for the Deaf puts on gigs. We Are The Ocean and Madina Lake are playing there soon, which makes sense.
Supporting 'the Refused' tonight are a duo of brothers from L.A called The Bots. Vocalist/guitarist Mikaiah Lei spends the majority of their thirty minute set sprinting back and forth between three different mics around the stage that must produce different effects, but I can’t distinguish between them as the mix is pretty muddy. Their sound, from what I can tell, is for the most part pretty standard punk rock with a few quirky elements such as the occasional jarring tinkle of a synth, frequent guitar loops, surprisingly tight tempo changes and tie die T-shirts, a couple of which they throw out into the crowd, which is nice. Drummer Anaiah makes me feel like shit because he's fifteen years old and probably twice as good as I am on drums. He has an afro too. Overall, they're energetic, confident and genuinely humble, but I'll have to hear more of their studio material to properly formulate an opinion on their music.
There's a half an hour wait before Refused come on. There aren't any songs coming from the p.a. during the interim, only an ambient drone which seems to slowly build up as the lights dim. As 9:15 approaches, the black curtain in front of the stage becomes backlit so that the word ‘Refused’ becomes illuminated in giant lettering. I can't help but go cold. That phenomenon is called 'Frisson', by the way. You're welcome. When the band take to the stage a few moments later, a deep voice announces the words ‘Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull’, the curtain drops and they immediately launch into the song of the same name. When Dennis Lyxzén screams those classic first words: ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with capitalism/and a few to break’, the crowd have already lost their minds. It’s obvious that a lot of people here have been waiting for this moment for around fourteen years.
My personal highlights, aside from the aforementioned opener, include the eponymous track from the band’s final, revolutionary album ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ as well as 'Rather be Dead', 'The Deadly Rhythm', 'Liberation Frequency', Dennis' incredible dance moves, 'Refused Are Fucking Dead', Jon Brännström's dress sense, 'Tannhäuser', 'Coup D’etat', the numerous ambient interludes, 'New Noise'...Oh fuck it, the whole thing was sublime. I would refer to these songs as fan favourites, but it's Refused; every song is a fan favourite.
Although a long time has passed since these songs were recorded, the band sound tighter and more energetic than they ever did. And they all look a lot happier than they did before their split in 1998. Not only that, but their music has become increasingly more relevant since then and still manages to sound ahead of its time in 2012. Simply put, they're the best live band I've ever seen. 10/10