LIVE REVIEW: Refused + Sleigh Bells @ The Fox Theater, Oakland 8/31/12
Anarchist literature and protest music greeted the masses entering Oakland’s Fox Theater, dwarfing the customary merch being shilled to the left. Refused had already delivered their first message: think before you consume. As quickly as the audience’s brains were challenged, they were deactivated by twelve Marshall amps towering over center stage and Lil B‘s “The Basedgods Layer.” As Sleigh Bells‘ questionable overture played, the message became: first six rows will get deaf.
Brooklyn’s electro-pop-rock fusion duo (plus touring guitarist) was initially overwhelmed by blank expressions. When they detonated Treats‘ shred-tastic landmine “Straight A’s,” Sleigh Bells won over the unacquainted. Unlike other members of indie’s Class of 2010, SB joyously executed older material, from power tool ravers (“Tell ‘Em”) to crunchy spit beats (“Infinity Guitars”). Enthusiasm levels waned during newer, hair metal-inspired pieces. Even ardent followers did little more than sway politely through the devastating ballad “End of The Line.” One would think Reign of Terror had been released seven days (not seven months) ago. Alexis Krauss played to her strengths as a prancing, dressed down hype woman with an above average scream, frequently crawling off the stage to cavort with zealots at the front. But the rumbling, buzz-sawing, strobe lit wall of amps undeniably stole the show. Head bowed toward his fret board, Derek Miller was this monstrous creation’s unassuming Dr. Frankenstein.
Refused’s reunion tour is more like a long-delayed victory lap for 1998’s acclaimed The Shape of Punk To Come. Despite the anguished music’s earnest concepts, euphoria reigned supreme as “Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull” began behind the band’s gigantic banner. Rhythmic shoving and shoe throwing appeared more cathartic than mindless. The Swedish hardcore legends ferociously tore through three-fourths of Shape of Punk, interspersed with fan favorites like “Rather Be Dead,” completing their truncated final concert at last.
The captivating Dennis Lyxzén flung his mic like Indiana Jones cracks a whip, kicked high, and roared lyrics while standing atop the mosh pit. Between songs Lyxzén mocked his tight pants, shouted out Pussy Riot, and encouraged everyone to “stay curious, stay alive, and stay hungry.” M.V.P. goes to David Sandstrom, a percussive powerhouse who could topple the Fox’s Buddha-like sentries just by brushing his cymbals. Highlights included the danceable “Summerholidays vs. Punk Routine,” inspired by the moment when Refused could “smell the sellout” approaching, and mission statement “New Noise,” so volcanic that even the Fox’s foundations seemed to leap in assent.
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