Apparently the last time Refused played Brighton was in 1998. Odd to think it’s been nearly 20 years since The Shape of Punk to Come came out. Looking about tonight, most of the crowd would have been spending their money on sweets and thinking Mortal Kombat was dangerous at the time.
First up is Anna Von Hausswolff. What ever preconceptions you may have about her from on record you can throw them straight out the window. Live she is the full sensory gothic subjugation you need after the miserable walk to Concorde 2. Somewhere between Diamanda Galas, Neubauten, and early-Tarantula A.D. Anna swerves between a meditative state, howling lamentation, and jumping up and down in time to smash at her organ. She has an exceptional band backing her up and the whole entity us just sheer exhilaration. A fantastically brave choice from Refused. Not just because she is such a curve-ball, but because who the fuck wants to follow that??? The audience loved it by the way.
If we are being honest here, Refused are not an easy band to love. Hard work even. Their albums are patchy, they have more ideas than they know what to do with, they are a bit keen on themselves in interviews, and there are some suspicious motives in their actions. Nevertheless, they are extremely easy to love on stage. After an amusing prank: playing a steadily increasing feedback drone over the PA at us for twenty minutes, they explode on stage with ‘Elektra’. It sounds absolutely incredible. They are the very epitome of tightness, the instruments are colossal. The first half an hour is very much getting the hardcore done. They then branch out into the weirder stuff. Refused sound like hardcore teens who grew up listening to Grand Funk Railroad and Mountain. There are loads of rawk moves in there. It’s quite confusing but seems to work? How so works is anyone’s guess. It should be noted that they look like a seventies function band. Sharp tight black suits and droopy moustaches. Frontman, and he most definitely is a frontman, Dennis Lyxzén comes across as your drunk uncle Jarvis Cocker at a wedding. He has studied moves and is effortless at deploying them. The only stinker is the stripper funk of ‘Servants of Death’, which is perhaps even worse live than on record as you can actually see the five very white hardcore guys getting funky.
Who cares though. After a very tasy segue of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’, then a wholly ironic encore departure we get the inevitable ‘New Noise’. Oddly, this provokes the biggest pit of the night. And what a polite pit it is too. None of that macho bollocks for Refused. Well, this writer walked in a sceptic tonight and left a true believer. Great stuff!