Last night The Refused played to a sold out show at the Congress Theater in Chicago. Some 4000 odd people had the privilege of seeing them play in Chicago for the first time in around 14 years. That's a very long time to wait for a band to roll through your home town again, but it was fucking worth the wait. They did not let us down.
I first saw The Refused play a small show at The Fireside Bowl in Chicago in 1996. I was a Junior in high school and had made my standard trip out to the city from the suburbs to catch a show at what was my favorite venue of the time. I wasn't very familiar with the band but I was going through a very hardcore phase then and they were playing with Snapcase and that was good enough for me. The show was tons of fun from what I can remember, but weren't they all at that point of life? After the show I picked up an album and quickly became a huge fan of The Refused.
In 1998, they released an album called The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts. I didn't take it out of my CD player for weeks. I patiently waited for a tour announcement in the US. I was let down. Apparently, the album didn't do very well in their homeland of Sweden and the band was having some issues staying together. They broke up. No tour for me. I thought to myself, at least I got to see them once and went on with life.
Over the next 14 years I found myself returning to that final album often. I played it at work, I played it while jogging, I played it while trying to go to sleep (this doesn't really work...). The Shape of Punk to Come became one of my staples, one of my all time favorite albums. It would take me right back to the first time I heard it and yet stayed feeling current and now musically. You'd think that an album made in the late 90s with so much anger toward the climate of politics back then would have aged poorly. You'd be wrong.
Okay, enough nostalgia.
Flash forward to last night:
They gave us the concert for TSoPtC that we never had a chance to get when it came out, and they did it so well that even my wife, who had complained on the walk up to the venue that I was taking her to "an all ages angry show", had fun.
The Congress is not known for making bands sound good, but nothing could stop The Refused from creating a wall of sound that ran through your body and made you want to scream along. (Can I scream?!)
The singer, Dennis Lyxzén, was on point and was able to take the songs he wrote in his youth and breathe new life into them. At moments between songs he would talk to us about why they got back together and what had stopped them from doing it for so long. They hadn't felt like this album would be relevant any more. I'm going to do a piss poor job of quoting him here but this is approximately what he said at one point: "...As we went over the lyrics to these songs we wrote so long ago, about things we were angry with the world with, that we had basically exaggerated over, we wondered how could they be relevant. That was the late 90s and it was so long ago. We thought things were so fucked up then but we were in Sweden and it wasn't, but now, in 2012 these songs are more relevant than ever..." (Again, not a direct quote but what I could put together from memory.) Well, Dennis, as I stated above in my trip down memory lane, you are fucking right.
The band didn't miss a (new) beat once. They played those songs like they were brand new and like this was the concert they were born to play for. All the original members of the band were there, Dennis on vocals, David Sandström on drums, Kristofer Steen on leed guitar, Jon Brännström on rhythm guitar, and Magnus Flagge on Bass (which was awesome because he had only been a recording artist for the last 2 albums and hadn't played any shows with the band for a while at the point that they broke up).
The band Off opened for them and at a point through the show Dennis brought out their lead singer to gush over. Off is fronted by Keith Morris, who was at one point the singer for a little band called Black Flag. Dennis talked about how it was a teenage dream of his to get to sing Black Flag songs with Keith and took the opportunity to do two duets with him. It was fucking crazy. When does shit like that happen in real life? Apparently, last night.
I would have to say that the highlight of the night for me was their first encore song, New Noise. It left me shaking. I have included a video that I shot with my phone, all shakey cam style. I can't express how good it was to see live and the video definately doesn't do it justice, but check it out and wish that you'd been there.
Other great moments were when Dennis stacked up two PA speaker and used them as a pedestal to sing from and jump off of, and when he somehow managed to climb off the stage and out onto the mass of bodies packed up against the front of the stage. Yeah, he actually walked out on top of the crowd and used them as a perch to stand there and scream out his lyrics. I half expected him to be engulfed by the pit of moshers up front and never be seen or heard from again, but they held him up until he decided to walk back on stage. How fucking awesome is that?.
Refused played a great set that night. They gave me and everyone else there what we had been waiting for. People like me, who had been dreaming for years of this chance, and kids who thought they had missed their chance all were able to share in this amazing experience. Thank you Refused. You have shown us that The Refused are definitely not fucking dead. Sadly, this may be the last chance I ever have to see them; as Jimmy Kimmel stated when they played his show that this tour is a "one off thing" and that they would be returning to their current projects and lives after the tour is over.
At least we had last night.
I have included a video of Refused playing New Noise as well as some grainy dark pictures of the show. Enjoy!