After 13 or so years since Alexisonfire were a fully touring, recording band, the five-piece came to Leeds to raise hell and realise the emo dream at the O2 Academy. My early-teens self would’ve been screaming almost as much as the guy behind me, who made my decision to insert ear plugs all the easier… It was a Wednesday night and, if you’ve been reading all the latest reviews, you’ll know it’s been a loud few weeks for me. So make no judgements, please.
Around the room, you could tell that this wasn’t an event for anyone but diehard fans. The ages gave it away; these were the kids who used to don studded belts, sports floppy fringes and dress in all-black attire, except they were all grown up and covered in the tattoos and piercings that they’d have been, for the most part, too young to have had at the time. Or was that just my age group? Either way, I hadn’t even lived in the north when I first got into Alexisonfire, so that in itself showed the magnitude of how much of a brewing, coveted event this was.
There were, however, what must have been clusters of people in that crowd who had come along predominantly to see Boston Manor. Higher Power were the first support, yet the Blackpool rockers who had just released ‘Datura’ still graciously came out and stated, “we’re a warm-up band; let’s get you warm”. Given their social following sits in the tens of thousands, you’d have thought they might’ve carried a little arrogance; instead, thankfully, Boston Manor were nothing but humble and appreciative, while wanting to put on a huge set.
Job done, in my book. They brought out tunes new and old, and each one carried a level of let’s-get-things-going energy. Their latest studio sound is this feisty, angsty, electronically infused alt rock, underpinned by intrusively explorative lyrics that just land on the money every time. “Free will is gathering dust”? A smart line.
Through their command of whirling mosh pits, ‘Passenger’ and ‘Crocus’ packed the weightiest punches from the recent album, but it was their outstanding ending of ‘Halo’ that struck me for the final time. After all, that was the first song of Boston Manor’s that caught my ears a few years ago.
The moment that Alexisonfire blitzed onto the stage, not a single body in the room was unaware that they meant business. They had this epic buoyancy to them — which I could even detect from the poor position I’d got myself into by the bar. Throughout, it was not only a rampaging showcase of their very finest material, but of their ability to construct transition-style, atmospheric instrumentals. They kept the theatre alive between the otherwise shredding riffs, thudding drums and shared mic responsibilities that flitted between sung vocals and screamo.
As an unrelenting champion of 2006’s ‘Crisis’, I was ecstatic to hear long-term favourite, ‘Boiled Frogs’ second on the setlist. That was a delicious running order outcome for me, while their newer anthems, such as ‘Sweet Dreams of Otherness’, were really quite electric, too. There were some well-received, politically charged statements as well, about everyone being welcome and safe at an Alexisonfire gig. A sentiment everyone raised hands in the air for. It was a monumental occasion that really painted the band in the very best light.