Tuesday, August 28th 2012
Even as a Refused faithful I had some doubts going into last>"/>
Tuesday, August 28th 2012
Even as a Refused faithful I had some doubts going into last night's reunion show. For one thing, the show had been moved from the gorgeous and typically great sounding Paramount Theatre to the somewhat less beloved and more acoustically challenging concrete box of the Showbox SoDo. For another, I'd heard mixed reports from people who'd seen their previous reunion shows, with some friends saying they absolutely destroyed but one friend suggesting that the band now seemed somewhat rote, frontman Dennis Lyxzén's showmanship canned and hammy. And then there was Sleigh Bells. Forget all that, though--Refused were amazing last night, and if you were up front at least, the sound was fantastic, clear and powerful. (As for Sleigh Bells, they were even louder, and proof that you can't improve music just by turning it up--a friend suggested that Refused booked them as a sort of sacrificial lamb, just to get the crowd extra angry and riled up, and this seems plausible.) Last night was one of those shows I never thought I'd get to see, and its explosive energy and catharsis--and fun!--was every bit equal to such expectation.
I spent from the first song of their set ("Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull") to the first song of the encore ("New Noise') in the pit, so I don't have a great deal of notes, and I'm kinda just gonna do this off the top of my head here. About that pit: not all are created equal, but I have a theory that the pit reflects the band, so if you have a dumb violent band you'll get a dumb violent pit, but if you have a smart, sensitive band, or one that preaches radical politics, you're maybe more likely to get a pit that looks out after its own, polices the assholes and takes care of the injured, and is above all just there to rock the fuck out and have a good time Anyway, it was heartening to see that backed up last night, where all the pushing and shoving, slamming and spazzing out and crowd-surfing all seemed to be in a really elated, positive spirit. Also, man, the pit exploded into frenzy again and again last night, but if you've never watched or better been in it for the massively pent-up vocal drop on "New Noise" ("can I scream?!"), you really have no idea.
As for the band's performance: nothing canned or hammy or rote about it. I never saw them back when--Lyxzén at one point apologized for them taking 20 years (?!) to make it (back?) to Seattle--but I can't imagine them being much more energetic and on-point at any age than they were last night. Lyxzén high-kicked and twirled mics at untenable lengths, while the band chugged through one monster riff and excitement-building breakdown after another. In one particularly inspired mood, they riffed on The Stooges' "TV Eye" during the breakdown of "The Deadly Rhythm." (At another point, the bassist teased about five seconds of Fugazi's "Waiting Room," suggesting a cover that so should've been.)
Nor was Lyxzén's banter short of inspiring. Early on, for those unaware of what they were getting into, he succinctly described what was to come as "grown-ass man in tight pants prancing around to heavy music." Yes, please! He talked about growing up working class in Sweden and feeling like no one would ever hear anything he had to say, until he discovered the medium and global culture of punk rock and found his voice in it. He introduced "Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine" as a song about trying to reconcile DIY ideals with success. He shouted out Pussy Riot (their kick drum also read "Free Pussy Riot"), praising them as "a band that challenges the state authority and the church," and noting that if Refused got 2 years in jail every time they did that, they'd be in jail for 2 million years--not as a brag, I think, but as a show of solidarity and to highlight how fucked Russia's political/justice system is right now. In the customary gap between main set and encore, the crowd chanted "Not! Fucking! Dead!" before the rhythm was slowly overtaken and replaced with "Free! Pussy! Riot!" It was awesome.
It looks like they're playing about the same set every night--sticking largely to their masterstroke The Shape of Punk to Come--and as I didn't take notes I'm going by previously posted set lists, but they look about right to me. Feel free to chime in with corrections if not.
Set List (?)
1. "Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull"
2. "The Refused Party Program"
3. "Liberation Frequency"
4. "Rather Be Dead"
5. "Coup d'état"
6. "Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine"
7. "The Deadly Rhythm"
8. "Hook, Line and Sinker"
9. "Refused Are Fucking Dead"
10. "Life Support Addiction"
11. "The Shape of Punk to Come"
12. "New Noise"
13. "Tannhäuser / Derivè"