Alkaline Trio

support Hammonds + Harrington & Destroy
author PP date 20/08/13 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Despite releasing their debut album in 1998, having released seven other critically acclaimed albums since then, and playing in front of arena-sized stages elsewhere, Alkaline Trio have somehow never played a show in Denmark. And it's probably been quite a while since the last time they've played at a venue this small, if I'm not mistaken, which makes tonight a double special; the Danish scene finally gets to hear some of the best songs in the genre live, and Alkaline Trio get to play a rare, intimate show in front of a passionate and dedicated fan base, many of whom have never seen the band play before. About 400 people or so pack into the confines of Lille Vega tonight, where an electric mood builds up throughout the night before the Alkaline Trio set, with many having caught sneak peaks online about the tour setlist. Little birds have told us it is one of the best ones the band has played in, well, a ridiculously long time, and in fact the band are almost notorious in their ability to pick awfully constructed setlists out of a back catalogue that consists almost exclusively of great songs, so there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic and excited about tonight.

Hammonds, Harrington & Destroy

Hammonds, Harrington & Destroy

But first, lets discuss the support band Hammonds, Harrington & Destroy, who are starting to become familiar faces in our regular coverage here at Rockfreaks.net. They're probably the most appropriate support band in the city for this type of a show, given their treble-enhanced, melodically ringing songs that draw equally much from "Searching For A Former Clarity"-era Against Me! as they do from more garage/noise oriented bands like Titus Andronicus and Japandroids. It's a great mix of different styles that puts them right in the middle with a fairly unique sound at least within our national borders, and because of the way they handle their build ups instrumentally, I dare suggest this band is criminally underrated in Denmark. The thing is, they need way more movement on stage and in their live shows for that to matter. As it stands today, vocalist Jakob Printzlau moves back and forth the stage in reasonably good movement, and the rest of the band moves around in their restricted spaces, which is fine for a small show like this, but think about what could happen if they matched the melodic breaks in their songs with equally explosive movement to provide some contrast for the eyes as well. "Only This Ocean", "Oh, Children Sing Apocalypse", "For The Arrow & The Bow" would all benefit immensely live from timed movements matching the highlight breaks in the songs. Once they figure this out, they'll start standing out live like they do on record as well.

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Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio

Disclosure: Alkaline Trio is my favorite band. I've seen them on three different continents in all types of venues, from packed main stage at Groezrock in front of 15,000+ spectators through the arena sized Brixton Academy in London to the medium-sized club venue in Melbourne, Australia and then some. Different tours, different albums, etc, and they've always been terrible live, so much so I had almost given up hope to believing they could actually pull off a decent set, well, ever. You know how much it sucks to have your favorite band be terrible live time after time? A lot, I tell you. A lot. So despite the best possible circumstances tonight, my expectations weren't exactly sky-high for this time either.

The band kicks off with "Private Eye", one of their most popular tracks, resulting in predictably loud sing alongs and movement from the crowd straight away. But once the initial excitement dies down, it immediately feels like I'm living my past disappointments over again. Not only can you not hear the guitar at all in the mix - which is a primary element in any Alkaline Trio song, no disrespect to the solid bass lines by Dan Andriano - but Matt Skiba is completely off-tune and is a far cry from sounding anything like he does on record. What's worse, some of those classic vocal melodies on both that song as well as "Clavicle" that follows are re-interpreted and changed at key moments, which on album sound awesome but now the best parts are changed "Damnesia" style. Why the band needs to make alternate interpretations of classic songs, I have no idea, and the mediocrity continues through "If We Never Go Inside", which receives almost no support from the crowd who are looking at each other in confusion and disbelief over what they are witnessing. Except those of us that went to Groezrock that year, of course, who knew what was coming all along.

Well, it turns out never judge a show from its opening moments, because from hereafter Alkaline Trio play the best show I've seen them play to date. "I Wanna Be Warhol" has a huge sing along despite being a new song, and the groovy riffs and classic "I crack my head open on your kitchen floor to prove you that I have brains" lyrics of "Nose Over Tail" receive similar treatment. Here, Alkaline Trio begin to notice the crowd's passion, open up their live performance a bit, and actually start talking to the crowd, which is a rare occurrence, trust me on this one. The guitar has made a welcome entrance to the soundscape, making the songs sound much better straight away, but the ridiculous number of punk classics that follow create an ecstatic mood in the first half of the venue, as "Cringe" is followed by "Crawl", and so forth. The band is starting to be all smiles at this point, and as people constantly shout different song titles at them, the band have a "you know what? Let's do this" sort of moment and actually play "All On Black" on request, which hasn't been part of the setlist all tour, skipping "Armageddon" in the process.

Alkaline Trio

Both Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano seem honestly impressed by the crowd, and as such they start telling us how beautiful our city is (having arrived already the day before), and wondering how they've never played here before. The interaction feels genuine, which repeats itself later on when "Mercy Me" is replaced by shouts of "Hell Yes", which Matt Skiba can't even remember the lyrics to, but the band play it anyway. They even air "Warbrain" as a bonus earlier, which hasn't been on the setlist either all tour long as a response to a fan request up front. At the same time, "Sadie"'s slow rhythms fit in perfectly in between the fast and melodic new track "The Torture Doctor" and the joyous "Dine, Dine My Darling". "This Could Be Love" predictably receives the biggest sing along of the night, with the whole venue screaming along "this could be love....LOVE FOR FIRE" in one of the most electric moments I've felt at Lille Vega in a while. This is the moment right before the encore, mind you, and the 20th song in a row where large parts of the venue are singing along to all lyrics to pretty much every song the band choose to play tonight. It gets so loud during "Radio" that Matt Skiba has to take his earpiece off so he can hear the crowd sing along better, because I guess it's been a while since they've built a connection like this with he crowd.

Matt Skiba's vocals might be terrible on any aired material pre-"Crimson" era, but he is in his element in newer songs. The song re-interpretations are also abandoned (thank god), and Dan Andriano's singing is as spot on as he does on record throughout the show. A 22 song setlist comprised of almost exclusively highlight tracks from a back catalogue that's packed with such examples combined with the band's improved attitude, appearance and energy on stage means they finally impress me. To think I've never given the band a higher grade than a 6 before today.

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Setlist:

  • 1. Private Eye
  • 2. Clavicle
  • 3. If We Never Go Inside
  • 4. I Wanna Be A Warhol
  • 5. Nose Over Tail
  • 6. I'm Only Here To Disappoint
  • 7. She Took Him To The Lake
  • 8. Cringe
  • 9. Crawl
  • 10. All On Black
  • 11. The Torture Doctor
  • 12. Sadie
  • 13. Dine, Dine, My Darling
  • 14. Donner Party (All Night)
  • 15. Blue Carolina
  • 16. Cooking Wine
  • 17. Warbrain
  • 18. Tuck Me In
  • 19. Young Lovers
  • 20. This Could Be Love
  • --encore--
  • 21. Hell Yes
  • 22. Radio

Photos by: Lykke Nielsen

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