There has been talk emanating from camp ASIWYFA that they had been finding the task of reproducing Gangs, their breathless second album, difficult in a live setting. “God, this new album is hard to play”, read one frustrated tweet sent on the third day of intense rehearsals aimed at readying themselves for a tour which starts on home soil, then covers the length and breadth of England before aiming headfirst into festival season. However, any lingering doubts as to whether they were prepared were immediately dispelled in The Button Factory on Saturday night.
The band arrived on stage shortly before 10pm, about 15 minutes later than advertised, just long enough of a delay for the anticipation amongst the couple of hundred packed into the Temple Bar venue to build into some sort of tangible mini-frenzy. This atmosphere was then immediately matched by the band when they began their set with the opening track from Gangs, ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION’.
What followed over the course of the next 90 minutes was everything you’ve come to expect from an ASIWYFA gig if you’ve witnessed them before and for the uninitiated, well, what a spectacle it was. There was crowd-surfing, there were sweaty heaving throngs of people throwing their limbs every which way and there was even a pseudo-political speech from Tony Wright in which he thanked those in attendance for making them feel as at home as they did the previous night in Belfast (“forget all the bullshit, we’re just one small island.”)
It was obvious too that the time spent in the rehearsal room had paid off, as they played the majority of the new album in sequence with barely a missed note or a dropped beat. It’s also apparent that, even so close to the beginning of its life, ‘Search:Party:Animal’ will for a long time be a staple of as ASIWYFA setlist with the simple mentioning of its name before playing it eliciting a primal roar from the crowd. ‘7 Billion People All Alive at Once’ and ‘Think:Breathe:Destory’ were also worthy of mention.
The second portion of the set was more reliant on older material. ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’ allowed the band, especially Wright, to display the well-worn rock histrionics (miming a gunshot to the head to coincide with a thunderous Chris Wee drumbeat) that they’ve collected by incessantly touring over the past 18 months compared to the newer stuff which, perhaps, they were slightly less comfortable with. ‘S Is For Salamander’ and ‘Set Guitars To Kill’, arguably two of their most impressive songs were also played and ‘The Voiceless’, with its dreamy crescendo, ended the set.
The news from last week that Gangs had been leaked to the Internet prior to its official release date by some unscrupulous individual was incredibly disappointing for the band, their label and their fans. But even in this era of digital music, illegal torrents and leaked releases it’s comforting to know that it’s still possible to enthral a live audience with the sheer power of music, as happened on Saturday night, and that will never change. Nor can you download it.
Photos: Kieran Frost.