Refused look anything but fucking dead in Vancouver

At the Vogue on Monday, August 27

Drained and sweat-soaked, Dennis Lyxzén could have been forgiven for refusing to get up off the stage. And, for a while, it looked like he was going to do just that.

No one in the Vogue would have blamed him. Proving that some things are more than worth the wait, the live-wire frontman for Sweden’s reunited Refused had just spent the past hour making up for lost time. It took a 14-year hiatus for one of the most groundbreaking acts in hardcore to return, and the five-piece did anything but disappoint.

Unrelenting and flat-out fucking incendiary will do as starting descriptors for what 900 or so delirious fans witnessed. And, unbelievably, there were moments every bit as memorable as “New Noise”, the smart-bomb anti-hit which temporarily left Lyxzén in a crumpled heap at centre stage one song into the encore. Let’s back up a bit though.

As hot tickets go, this was one of the biggest ones of the summer. Refused were playing the second half of a two-night stand at the Vogue, the Sunday show added after Monday sold out in about 17 seconds. If summer was starting to feel like it was over outside, that changed the second you stepped into the theatre. You like sweltering, not to mention stinking mightily of spilled Pabst Blue Ribbon and eye-watering B.O.? Well, then, the Vogue was the place to be.

There was also the smell of anticipation. The audience—many whose members were just out of diapers when Refused pulled the plug back in 1998—was jacked to the point where it wasn’t a question of if the room was going to go off, but when.

Predictably, that happened one song into the night. A giant floor-to-ceiling curtain—emblazoned with "Refused"—fell to the stage to reveal Lyxzén and his bandmates—drummer David Sandström, guitarists Jon Brännström and Kristofer Steen, and bassist Magnus Flagge. The band ripped right into the dissonant-jazz-blitzed “Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull”, at which point it was like watching a giant lit torch land on a lake of napalm.

Over the next hour, which drew heavily from 1998’s landmark album The Shape of Punk to Come, Refused showed it’s far from fucking dead, and not just during the road-rage explosiveness of “Refused Are Fucking Dead”. When he wasn’t leaping six feet into the air off guitar amps, or delivering impassioned sermons on the evils of capitalism and the importance of free speech, Lyxzén was a dancing madman who has moves not only like Jagger, but also like Roger Daltrey, Iggy Pop, and every other iconic frontman who's ever mattered. Sandström and Brännström were only marginally less captivating, both spending good chunks of the set howling along to songs and psychotically punching the air during the breakdowns where their services weren’t required.

In the mosh pit, where real estate was a scarce commodity, the crowd screamed along to “Liberation Frequency”, which winningly mixed abrasive-folk with face-melting hardcore. When it completely lost its shit during “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine”, Lyxzén followed suit to the point where he eventually ended up standing in the pit on the hands of the outstretched faithful.

Hard as all this was to top, Refused did just that with a raging “New Noise”, which even got the deadbeats in the cheap seats dancing. The song exploded at the end with Lyxzén screaming the lyrics “The new beat!/The new beat!” over and over again, the veins in his neck bulging, until he fell over on his back and just lay there. But because real soldiers—even those who’ve been missing in action for a decade and a half—always get on their feet, the frontman did just that.

Refused concluded things on a daring note, rolling out “Tannhäuser/Derive”, a monolithic slowjam that was part lumbering postrocker and part atmospheric experiment. Stripped naked to the waist, rivers of sweat running off him, Lyxzén interrupted the song mid-stream to make an impassioned speech about the importance of art, staying curious about life, and following one’s dreams. The band then blazed into the song’s outro, the singer screaming “Boredom won’t get me tonight.” Lyxzén was not only still standing, but dancing like he’d just arrived on the Vogue’s stage. Epic. Truly goddamn epic.

Follow Mike Usinger on the Tweeter at twitter.com/MikeUsinger.

Comments (24) Add New Comment
Tyler
I went to both shows and have barely been able to sleep for two nights. Electric. What a band.
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Dennis
Refused are fucking cheesy. Nice dance moves dennis.
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Leora
"Deadbeats in the cheap seats". WTF is that even supposed to mean? That people who you thought didn't spend as much money on tickets as the people on the floor were shitty fans? Considering the show sold out in like 17 seconds, I doubt there were many (if any) people there who weren't stoked on the show. My friends and I chose to stick to the balcony, and our minds were blown by the show.

P.S. The show was actually general admission, and people in the balcony were up there because not everybody has the physical wherewithal or desire to stand a pit at a REFUSED show, not because they were too "cheap".

Stick to reviewing the show and not the fans.
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Laurel
Why didn't you write about the Bronx? You failed to mention that almost everyone who bought tickets actually showed up for the opening band. They are the only reason I went both nights, and I'm glad I did because the 2nd night was much, much better than the first. I barely saw any young kids. I saw peers who were close to my age (27) who were growing up in the time of Refused's debut and who wholeheartedly believed that "New Noise" was our generations anthem.
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Mike Usinger
@Laurel: I didn't write about the Bronx because I didn't have the space. But agreed that they are great; here, read this: http://www.straight.com/article-209395/bronx-takes-punk-south-border
@Leora: It was a joke. There were no cheap seats. Thanks for displaying a complete lack of anything resembling a sense of humour.
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towns
I have waited all of my teen years and almost all of my twenties for something I never thought would come. I made a point of visiting Umea when I was in Europe to breathe the air of hardcore past. While my angst has subsided, my passion is still alive and I have Refused, Final Exit, TEXT, Lost Patrol Band, 93 Million Miles, Ingstand, David Sandstrom Overdrive, AC4, U.X. Vileheads, The Rats, Regulations and all other Umea music to thank. This was worth the wait... Thank you gents.
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quirky
It would great to see some pics of the show(s). Did the Straight have anyone there?
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FanBoy
Atta boy UZI!
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A. MacInnis
Hey, Mike: Matt from the Jen Huangs was at Refused, as well, and we ran into each other on the bus after the show (me returnin' from the Metallica 3-D thing, I'm embarrassed to say). Charlie, the Calzone guy from Funky's ("looks like Manuel from Fawlty Towers") got on the bus, too, which prompted Matt to relay a charming story about how he shared your Funky's writeup that mentioned Charlie with the man himself, on a similar bus ride, some months ago... You'll have to ask Matt sometime to tell the story, though; I can't presume to steal the whole thing.

By the by, at the Anvil show at the Rickshaw the other week - there was Charlie! So he's expanding his operations, perhaps with a grease-stained copy of your Straight article in his back pocket to show club owners ("look, this is me, I'm in The Georgia Straight")... I'm told his calzones are pretty good, in fact - there was even a cluster of female groupies at the Coquitlam bus loop last night complimenting them (though presumably Charlie's calzones have never gotten him laid).
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Rating: -1
Please, Please, Please
I wont let another copy and paste Usinger review detract from two good shows.

blah-blah-blah "hto ticket of the summer" blah-blah-blah "epic show"-blah-blah-blah"if you werent there" blah-blah-blah "random profanity" blah-blah-blah "randomly insult fans of other bands/genres" blah-bah-blah"mention Pabst Blue Ribbon to burnish your hipster cred" blah-blah-blah


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Rating: -1
Please, Please, Please---have some balls
....And I won't let trolls like Please, Please, Please ruin a good review. Why don't you grow a pair and do your message-board posting under your real name chickenshit
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Rating: +1
Please, Please, Please
Please, Please, Please --have some balls
"And I won't let trolls like Please, Please, Please ruin a good review. Why don't you grow a pair and do your message-board posting under your real name chickenshit"

Feelings hurt, Mike ?

Frist things first, pot, meet kettle. Unless "Please, Please, Please--have some balls" is your real name.

Like some Conservative that claims they can do shady things "because the Liberals did it" you just lowered yourself to the level you think I am on. So at best, you are now no better than I am in this regard.

In any event, tried that "real name" idea once, people who didnt like what I had to say called my home number repeatedly.

That being said, I strongly support the idea that all Internet posters should have to register real names that are verified. I would happily play by those rules.

If expressing my opinion "ruins a good review" for you, you really need to get out of your mom's basement, because the opinion of some anonymous poster on the Internet shouldnt rile up ANYONE with an actual life.

And as far as you not "letting me" do anything, I seem to be still typing.
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Rating: 0
Please, Please, Please
You know what, I have a better idea.

Go read Usinger's review of the Pack AD show printed January 30th/12.

Tell me that this review isnt eerie similar to that one (including references to PBR and it was a "fucking rager" instead of an "epic show")

It is practically a paragraph by paragraph rip off.

Refused deserves better than paint by numbers reviews from the Straight's resident "trying to be cool over the hill music guy".
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Mike Usinger
Sorry Please, Please, Please--when I feed the trolls, which I rarely do, I do it under my real name. Hope I didn't "ruin" the show for you. Cheers!
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You
PPP p-p-probably has never been to a show in Vancouver or else they would know how all the references to P-P-PBR are "eerie[sic] similar" to the real thing.
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Rating: +2
USINGER'S HIPSTER CRED
I WISH I KNEW HOW TO QUIT YOU, MIKE!
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Please, Please, Please
You
"PPP p-p-probably has never been to a show in Vancouver or else they would know how all the references to P-P-PBR are "eerie[sic] similar" to the real thing"

For every trendy douche drinking that watered down shit called PBR, you can find just as many throwing back Bud, cheap draft or whatever the cheap shot of the night is.

Would pointing that out to the world serve to do anything other than pander to those that think cheap draft and shots are "trendy" or "cool".

Does it enhance the review for Usinger (or any reviewer) to name drop trendy brands into his reviews (the irony of hipsters having brands that they prefer notwithstanding) ? Who fucking cares what the crowd is drinking ?

Whether you believe it or not, and whether or not it makes you feel any better, I have been to about 8-10 shows in Vancover this year, from Rogers to the Biltmore.

Frankly, I consider it a badge of honour that the Straight has only reviewed one/two of those shows - Refused.

I take that as a sign that I have enough integrity to like what I like, hipsters and trends be damned, and not what the Straight has decided is cool this week.

Can you say the same while swilling down your PBR ?
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Mike Usinger
Dear Please Please Please me. As I don't feed trolls normally, I'm not going to waste a lot of time here. Here's a basic writing question for you. What paints a more vivid picture of a scene for you? 1) "Tom Waits was smoking cigarettes and drinking liquor while a song played on the jukebox." Or 2) "Tom Waits was smoking filterless Lucky Strikes and drinking Basil-Hayden's No. 5 while Refused's post-hardcore epic 'Don't Feed the Trolls" played on the jukebox". Pabst Blue Ribbon is in the review because a: that's what everyone was drinking and b: it says more about the crowd than writing they were drinking "beer". I hope you enjoy this meal.
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Rating: +1
You
But PPP, you forget that Ke$ha brushes her teeth with not just any run-of-the-mill bottle of Tennessee whiskey, but with a bottle of Jack.
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A. MacInnis
No one wants to talk about Charlie?
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Rating: +1

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