Live at The Refectory on Thursday, 17th November 2005
God love Alkaline Trio, the unflappable red and black macabre attack are one of those one-of-a-kind bands that unassailably distinguish themselves from the pack and become a staple ingredient of your listening diet with inherent ease. For the past decade or so, such has been true for many a punk rock fan but now upon completion and release of their most assessable and smooth release to date - 'Crimson'- the door has been opened to a whole new army of fans and the Alk3's promotion to The Refectory and unbelievable support throughout lends itself to the theory that Alkaline Trio will still be around, at the top of the ladder, for many years to come.
Unfortunately their pick of support acts is sometimes a tad off. Sunshine are horrendously drole. The bastard lovechild of Rod Stewart and Courtney Love of a vocalist looks to be approaching 50 when he hits stage and pushing 80 when he eventually and thankfully leaves. Initially the young crowd seem to be willing to give the relative unknowns a chance as their opening few slices of the most average pop-punk in the world provide adequate bounce fodder but half way through a cape of realisation (and ultimately hatred) cascades over the audience leading to the biggest cheer of the night being in reaction to the 'one song left' announcement.
Those who hadn't read the script (or the adverts) had the right to be mightily perplexed when an Asian fella in a tweed suit erected a projector monitor on stage come around half past nine. Unbeknownst to them this was Mike Park limbering up. Mike Park proves to be one of the most affable and charming acoustic vocalists you're ever likely to meet, unfurling fairy tales about his past experiences between songs and in his songs containing a real, passionate, heartfelt message about racism and peace. Granted at times his lyrics are lacking ("I'm from Korea/ my eyes are small/ but you're eyes are closed"... hmmm.) but the package they're delivered in far outweighs any such deficiencies. Worth a listen.
Not the best punk workout you could have imagined to warm up for the mighty Alkaline Trio then but luckily this proves to be the added element that upholds maximum energy throughout. The current Alk3 set is a set of epic proportions. A set consisting of over a dozen songs that could easily be described as your favourite. A near impossible highlight chooser but to narrow it down - 'Armageddon', 'This Could Be Love' and 'Private Eye' spring to mind most abruptly but the supporting cast have more than a strong case to be up there with the best. From the encore opener of 'Time To Waste', to viscous 'Good Mourning' effort 'We've Had Enough', via new single 'Mercy Me' and glorious sweeping tale 'Sadie', with older nuggets of eventual closer 'Radio' and 'Maybe I'll Catch Fire' thrown in for good measure. It's a set that doesn't lull at any point and to the crowds credit, neither do they. They don't have a choice. The now expected expulsion of 'Stupid Kid' (although it was relayed at Leeds Festival) and 'Mr. Chainsaw', as well as no nod to the superb split E.P efforts is the most minor of down points and as such the setlist was simply unbelievably good. On stage it could be said the band continue to lack a little dose of stage presence, especially widely accepted as frontman, Matt Skiba, who when he's not singing, does seem a tad lost from time to time. Bassist Daniel Andriano,'s vocal performance has improved several fold in recent years, maybe due to the songs he is responsible for also increasing in quality, but whatever the case, Andriano, nearly manages to surpass his team-mates skill in crowd control (brought into evidence when a mass pit collapse brought about the destruction of the front barricade, hardcore). The immense light show incorporating half a dozen that must have been army surplus spotlights and numerous back drop alterations combine to create a brilliant environmental atmosphere to match the band's performance. Basically a downright superb performance from one of the best punk bands on the planet right now. The world needs Alkaline Trio.