Once again, nostalgia throws up another anniversary marker that reminds me that I’m old, and getting older. I never really got into them at the time, simply because accessing new music was a lot more difficult at the time, but I remember when … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead first emerged on the alternative rock scene because I used to read ‘Melody Maker’ and ‘The NME’. In print.
The 20-year anniversaries of the likes of ‘Nevermind’ and ‘In Utero’ were enough to swallow, but the 20-year anniversary of an album released in 1999?
Credit is very much due to the Texan quartet, who remain very much a going concern rather than an act who trade on their past: ‘Lost Songs’ and ‘IX’ were outstanding albums in their own right, packing some real firepower. But equally, with the back catalogue they have, they probably deserve to celebrate and reflect on their achievements, and the fans gathered tonight would clearly agree. Half the crowd know – and sing – every last word. There are a fair few around my age, and this is their band, their album.
Spoilers do a fair job of warming things up: their brand of choppy indie / alt rock which hints towards Gang of Four is enjoyable but largely unremarkable die to its lack of edge and dynamism. Placing the striped-T-shirted bassist centre stage is a wise move, though, as he’s by the far the move charismatic and energetic member of the band.
The one thing about playing albums end to end (albeit with a few omissions) rather than a conventional gig set is the difference in pacing. Whereas bands tend to save up the big crowed-pleasers and the uptempo, exhausting-to-play- songs for the end of a show, albums are more often structed around variety of pace, and this is very much the case with ‘Madonna’, the band’s second album. Landing just a couple of songs in, ‘Totally Natural’ ignites a moshpit, and the mood is one of euphoria.
It would be easy enough for the band to just play the album, take the cash, flog some merch and no-one would likely grumble, but they really do put the effort in. What’s more, as they swap instruments – Conrad Keely and Jason Reece make numerous switches between drumming and guitar / vocal duties – and pass around the communal bottle of wine, it’s apparent they they’re genuinely enjoying doing what they do, that hey still get a buzz from playing the songs, and playing together.
After 9 songs from ‘Madonna’, the first encore, comprising five songs, consists primarily of selected highlights from ‘Tags & Codes’. They return once more for a blistering rendition of ‘Richter Scale Madness’, complete with stage invasion, making for a very happy end to a very good night.