Alexisonfire

support The Ghost Of A Thousand
author PP date 02/12/12 venue Brixton Academy, London, UK

When seminal screamo band Alexisonfire broke up, they did so abruptly, without the chance of a proper goodbye or a farewell tour to thank their fans for their support over the years. That's why the band decided to bury their differences for one final tour where they'd set up a 15 shows spanning most of the world over a one month period. Two concerts in London were the opening dates for the tour, and the 11,000 tickets available were torn away from the merchants in less than ten minutes. Every single other date on the tour is sold out as well. That's how special Alexisonfire is to a great amount of kids and young adults who grew up with their music, who learned to appreciate how Alexisonfire established screamo from its murky underground venues into a mainstream phenomena through two, genre-defining albums in 2002 and 2004. People had travelled from all around Europe to attend this show, because these two dates would represent the only European dates on a tour that would also feature a show in Brazil, two shows in Australia, and 10 appearances in their native Canada.

The Ghost Of A Thousand

As a special gift to all their fans, Alexisonfire had talked The Ghost Of A Thousand (one of the most important UK hardcore bands of the last decade for those not in the know) into reuniting for the occasion. It's no Moneen (which Canada gets on multiple dates), but given the band's always ferocious live show and their ability to buzz up a venue of any kind regardless of whether people know them or not, they were a welcome addition to the bill. Given that they've been broken up for about a year now, Tom Lacey and co take a few songs to adjust into their frenetic stage show, but once they do, the 5,500 strong audience is in for a ride. Their rowdy and groovy rock'n'roll based hardcore is intense enough on record, but it really knows no limits when it comes to its in-your-face aggression live. Because if you thought that an extensive divide between an arena-sized stage and the crowd was going to keep Tom Lacey away from causing havoc in the audience, well, you were wrong. After spending the first three to four songs in a devastating display of pure, unadulterated hardcore energy in the form of jumping off any monitor or elevated stand on stage, or screaming their throats off while throwing their guitars and bodies around with little regard to instrument or bodily safety, Tom decides it is time to take things to the next level.

First, it's just standing at the barrier and crowd surfing forward while screaming into the mic. Casual stuff, I know. But then it's planting himself halfway through the crowd and traversing with his mic to scream towards unsuspecting bystanders, which at this venue is well over 50 meters from the stage. It requires the concentrated efforts of at least two security guards and several crowd members to keep the cord hanging high enough above the audience for him to be able to do this. Then it's doing the same later on, except this time inciting an enormous circle pit in the middle of the venue in a crowd that was almost completely dead for the first few songs, leading the pit action instead of commanding it from the stage. He's ridiculously far in the crowd at this point, when their guitarist decides to have a try at crowd surfing as well - with his instrument with him. Chaos ensues and the band continues to display high energy levels on stage, and although the large stage does them no favours, The Ghost Of A Thousand show tonight why they were considered to be the brightest hopes of the British hardcore scene before breaking up.

8

Setlist:

  • 1. Left For Dead
  • 2. Bright Lights
  • 3. Up To You
  • 4. Knees, Toes, Teeth
  • 5. Moved As Mountains, Dreamt Of By The Sea
  • 6. Canyons Of Static
  • 7. New Toy
  • 8. Running On Empty
  • 9. Black Art Number One
  • 10. Bored Of Math

Alexisonfire

It's one thing to sell out Brixton Academy, but to sell it out two dates in a row in less than just ten minutes is some kind of achievement. Especially when you aren't some dime-a-dozen pop band with superfluous melodies or a mainstream rock band with huge, predictable choruses. That a screamo band can do just that is amazing, even if they have Dallas Green's sublime clean vocal ability as an asset. So once the lights dim and the gigantic banner slowly descends from the rafters, the band enters the stage to a deafening audience roar. We have been waiting for this moment for weeks. For months, even. The band waste no time with introductions and kick off straight with "Crisis" in what is a theme tonight: they intend to spend as little time talking as possible in order to fit as many songs as humanly possible into a two-hour setlist, which has to be the longest Alexisonfire has ever played during their career. Whole 23 songs is what we're treated to tonight, and there's really something for everyone. Three songs from "Alexisonfire", five from "Watch Out!", eight from "Crisis", five from "Old Crows / Young Cardinals", and one each from "Dog's Blood" and "The Switcheroo Series" EPs are in the mix tonight. And while you could argue that the set should've been evened out with songs like "That Girl Possessed", "Adelleda", "Side Walk When She Walks", and "A Dagger Through The Heart Of St. Angeles" instead of so many songs from "Crisis", you can't really complain when a screamo band delivers a two-hour set in as convincing manner as Alexisonfire did tonight.

They have complete, utter control of the crowd tonight. While a few idiots are doing their best to ruin the experience at the back through intentional karate moshing and ramming into bystanders, most people are able to stand just still and even forget the band are on stage moving around with great energy, because the atmosphere inside the venue can best be described as all-encompassing hypnosis. The trance-like feeling is brought by the constant and never-ending sing along song after song...and let me just stress this, there's something truly, truly special about hearing thousands upon thousands of people considered misfits by the mainstream society sing along together to lyrics like "We are the sound / We don't belong / So raise up your hands / And sing along" while raising their hands in unison (see video above). It's bewildering.

Dallas Green is on a roll and is hitting every one of his notes exactly as we've heard them on record so many times before. Not that he needs to - the 5,500 strong audience takes care of pretty much every one of his sections in a thunderous response that nearly drowns him out from where I'm standing. George Pettit, who at this point is shirtless because he drenched himself in sweat early on with his constant movement on stage, enjoys his fair share of crowd scream alongs, too. Arguably the most memorable moment of the entire show is when he climbs on top of the side-speaker tower on the right side during "Accidents", standing well above the crowd while screaming the classic "LET'S REDEFINE, LET'S REDEFINE" section of the song in a commanding stance (see video below).

As we slowly climb towards the final songs of their set after the encore it finally dawns upon me that this is the very last time I'll be seeing Alexisonfire for the foreseeable future, perhaps ever. Tonight's event is a perfect way to say farewell, a nostalgic goodbye to a band that, in all honesty, has seen time and change run from underneath their feet musically in 2012. Listening to 23 songs of Alexisonfire classics in a row gives me and thousands of others at the venue closure, but let's not kid ourselves: their music isn't as timeless as we originally thought it'd be. Alexisonfire was a great, important band and a piece of music history, but this is the right decision, and tonight was a fantastic way to communicate that to the fans. Their heartfelt individual speeches before the encore dealt with just that, describing an important period in their lives that has now come to an end, but that they are thankful from the bottom of their hearts and for all the support they have received over the years. It's a genuine and honest goodbye from the band to the crowd, which draws another thunderous applause from the crowd before it's time to finish the night off with a couple of more anthemic sing alongs.

Setlist:

  • 1. Crisis
  • 2. Get Fighted
  • 3. Waterwings (And Other Poolside Fashion Faux Pas)
  • 4. Old Crows
  • 5. Control
  • 6. You Burn First
  • 7. We Are The Sound
  • 8. .44 Caliber Love Letter
  • 9. This Could Be Anywhere In The World
  • 10. Midnight Regulations
  • 11. Pulmonary Archery
  • 12. No Transitory
  • 13. Dog's Blood
  • 14. Keep It On Wax
  • 15. Accept Crime
  • 16. Boiled Frogs
  • 17. Drunks, Lovers, Sinners And Saints
  • 18. Charlie Sheen vs Henry Rollins
  • 19. The Northern
  • 20. Accidents
  • --Encore--
  • 21. Rough Hands
  • 22. Young Cardinals
  • 23. Happiness By The Kilowatt

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