REFUSED ARE NOT FUCKING DEAD. Refused are alive and currently melting your face. Tonight it’s in Vancouver, first of two shows. They’re back. REFUSED ARE BACK!
Where to start? Start with wall-shakin’ screams from hardcore LA’s The Bronx – Matt McCaughthran’s, precisely – tonight, with special guest The Drips/Mariachi El Bronx’s Vince Hidalgo comin’ in on a day’s notice to replace a Bronxian who slipped and bust his arm the night before. Good one, Hidalgo! And good one Bronx. The sound is big, but it’s as you’d expect.
But the real reason we’re all there? It’s that GUY. And THOSE GUYS. The SWEDES.
It’s Dennis Lyxzén, a 40–year-old bounding around like a 20-year-old doing James Brown on meth. He’s doing splits and jumps. He’s in the crowd, he’s ON the crowd, he’s sitting on an amp above my head. He’s throwing the mic in the air and hands-free catching it on his chest. Somersaults backwards then leaps up like a puppet. He’s a rake of reverberating punk electricity. It’s jaw-dropping to watch. Is it punk if it’s not messy? Who cares, this is enormous.
He’s doing the same spiel he did last week when I saw them at Belgium festival Pukkelpop; it was great then, and it’s great now. He’s talking about the past, how the band was vain before – they broke up in 1998 but reformed in the last 6 months – and he was angry. “No, I don’t think you get it, I was REALLY FUCKING ANGRY,” he says, but how all “the shit that I made up for these songs back then” has actually come to pass and that they now seem really prescient.
He’s talking about how the double bill of Bronx & Refused is really good but I’m in the front row and point to my t-shirt (“Keith & Ron & Dez & Henry – a Black Flag tribute, the band just toured with BF singer Keith Morris’ joint OFF!) and yell at guitarist Kristofer Steen: “Not as good as this one.” Steen nods, and grins. They get the shirt. They know punk.
And Lyxzén’s STILL talking: about how excited he is we’re all there on a Sunday night, giving the finger to the day of rest, inciting us to stay hungry. To do something and mean it. He’s thanking us for making the show “100% our pleasure”. He keeps bantering. He says it’s because “my jeans are too tight and it cuts off the oxygen to my head, so I talk a lot of shit. Plus, English isn’t my first language but fuck it” (his first languages are Swedish and showmanship). Then he’s flying through the air again. As are the bodies. So many bodies. Like the body that pushes past me in the front row to rush the stage, gets part-way, is wrestled to the ground by a lone security on stage, kicks out the floodlights, wriggles free and dives into the crowd. Refused grins. Lyxzén comes over to shake the hand of the security guard, see if he’s alright. Security guy Brian’s fucked up his finger on that flanneled asshat, but says it’s part of the job.
But that’s just the showmanship. The razzle dazzle. The music? It’s electric to hear the songs again. If the Shape of Punk To Come was being drawn in the 90s, it’s bigger and broader and still needed by us now.
Kristofer Steen’s guitar is precise, and punishing. During encore “New Noise” a thousand punk fans nearly weep with joy at the sharpness of that riff. Steen’s brandishing this beautiful Gibson like a weapon but playing it elegantly. He’s got all the poses too. Dripping with sweat, and focused. Jon Brännström is yelling along, sharp-suited, flinging his guitar around. Magnes Flagge is hammering the bass and David Sandström is motoring from behind a kit emblazoned with Free Pussy Riot in duct tape. The rest of the setlist (see below) is nitro.
REFUSED, live, are deadly. Summerholidays vs Punkroutine? It’s the end of August, and I’ll take the Punkroutine, fuck you very much. And thanks, Refused for coming back from the dead. I think we kind of needed you. \m/
REFUSED SET LIST: Vancouver, Vogue Theatre, August 22