Alexisonfire & support from Comeback Kid,
Manchester Academy 2,
The friendly, but grizzly vocals of Scott Wade shudder over the volcanic drumbeats to the now set in stone opener of 'False Idols Fall', signalling the arrival of the brazenly rhythmic Comeback Kid. This song, with its early Rage Against The Machine feel, spiked with the intensity of Boysetsfire, helps you realise why this Canadian quartet are commonly seen as the band to first discover hardcore to. Quite whether the purists will see them as hardcore is another matter? The looks of awe on the faces several gatherers and their willingness to follow Wade's instructions and join in at every opportunity, establishes a place for this quartet across the alternative music border.
The striding bass lines lift the Thrice spirited, 'Broadcasting' up a notch and makes use of the tight, sound concealing room. Aching bemusement is delivered through haunting bellows and has a lingering impact. Of course, it wouldn't be possible to be a broad ranging and sincere, off kilter band if you didn't flirt with the troubled vixen that is emo. 'Wake The Dead' does this with sufficient compassion and belief to make it laudable and non band wagon jumping, as cold and murky lyrics are delivered with gruffness;
"Break the silence, WAKE THE DEAD. Running through these streets alone
I'll kick and scream, let's break this hold."
Tonight, Comeback Kid emboldens their radio friendly angst and guile with a humility and belief in what they do. This makes for a refreshing set, although you probably couldn't stand through it more than twice a year.
The most unassuming person in the room is stood to the far stage left, as the crowd peers on and he strokes his guitar as though it is a frightened pussycat. Meet Dallas Green, the troubled, sincere and potent writing force behind Ontario's Alexisonfire (AOF). This is going on while the chest bearing, boxer shorted singer, George Petit growls out the potent vocal bite for the inner strength lauding 'Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints', from last year's 'Crisis' album. The high pitched, churning bass lines of Wade Macneil, acts as a coil to increase the power and pitch of the vocals setting off a stern and slightly positive veined opener. Their added snarl, water tight musical understanding and extra force in general song-delivery, shows why AOF are seen by many in the know to have transcended the emo barriers and are now recognised as screamo protagonists. Is this a compliment? Given the size of the mosh circle that forms for every song and the gusto with which the material is delivered, or even hurled back at the guys, it certainly does them and the alternative scene no harm tonight.
The height of the deep intensity and daily grind challenging bite stuns you immediately in 'Boiled Frogs'. Apparently, if you put a frog into a pan of boiling water it'll jump out immediately, but if you put it in a pan of lukewarm water and slowly bring it to the boil, it will stay in there and die. This is a metaphor for the workload of Dallas' dad and the slow increase of it that his ex-employers used to force him out and rob him of his pension rights. Given that many in attendance are of the still in education age, teachers and lecturers will be pleased to learn that kids today appreciate powerful, poetic metaphor use to rival John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that while Petit's almost Freddie Mercury style, stage extravagance that reaches a peak for the sorrowful 'This Could Be Anywhere In The World', is not lost on attendees. It is the name of Dallas Green that is bellowed out and scrawled over t-shirts and on the back of jackets. 'White Devil', from 2004's 'Watch Out' album, stands out for its rawer guitar edge and it helps you see how AOF's sound has grown since then, given the large range of newer and more rhythmic material on display. Inhibitions are thrown into for the searing post/hardcore guitar grind of 'Mailbox Arson', as the gap between band and crowd is now non-existent. AOF have truly broken down barriers with their searing, deep-seated honesty and musical punch.
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