Refused prove the naysayers wrong with volatile set in Brooklyn
Venue: Music Hall Of Williamsburg, New York
If anyone is still upset or angry or talking shit about the fact that Refused dared to reunite in 2012 and have a new album coming out, they clearly haven't seen them live. Yes, the Umeå post-hardcore quintet might have said they would never do either of those things, but haven't we all changed our minds at some point in our lives? It's human nature. We're allowed to do it, and so are they. And a good thing too, because at this, the second of two official New York gigs – they'll go on to play another secret show at St. Vitus bar in the early hours of the morning – they're as vital, as important, as thought-provoking, as necessary, as real and revolutionary as they need to be. Or rather, as everyone else needs them to be.
Because 17 years after redefining, through deconstruction and reconstruction, the shape of punk with The Shape Of Punk To Come and then declaring themselves "fucking dead", they're proving every naysayer wrong.
"Ladies and gentlemen," announces a disembodied robotic voice some 30 minutes or so after a sublime set of disturbing, off-kilter noise-grunge by Philadelphia's Creepoid, "the time has come. There is no escape." They're lyrics from Elektra, the first single from the new album, and they launch into it with vicious aplomb. They might be in their 40s now, but they're full of the fire and conviction and truth of youth, and they prove the very point of the song.
For the next hour, there is no escape. Lithe and lanky frontman Dennis Lyxzén is calm and composed, yet also capable of the most visceral explosions. He dives into the baying crowd during Rather Be Dead, flails as if possessed by both the Devil and God during newest single Françafrique, jokes with the audience about his and their ages – “There’s a lot of people in their 30s having fun tonight, but you’ll be feeling it tomorrow. We all will” – before ramping things up a notch with an enthralling performance of Coup d’état and twirls and spins with the grace of a ballet dancer during the more reflective moments of Tannhäuser/Derivè before closing out the main set in a furious pulse of strobe lights and catharsis. Of course, Liberation Frequency brings those old familiar protestations – "We want the airwaves back/ we don't just want airtime/ we want all the time all of the time" – back with fist pumps and fury, the wants and needs and frustrations not yet realised of both the band and crowd serving as revolutionary, revelatory zeal – while New Noise predictably - understandably, deservedly – turns the venue into a swirlpool of primal energy. Crowdsurders and stage divers collide as sweat drips from the pores of every band member. Their clothes and hair are soaked, yet somehow they remain impeccable, undisturbed, undiluted, as thoroughly and quintessentially alive as the day they died.
It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again, but it bears repeating regardless: Refused are fucking dead. Long live Refused.