Tonight, London’s Old Blue Last becomes the destination point of a pilgrimage like few others, a teeny crowd of just 200 privy to Glassjaw’s first UK show in four long years. There aren’t many bands who could stroll on stage after that time away and cast out an opener as powerful as ‘Tip Your Bartender’ with nary more than a shrug. But then there aren’t many bands quite like Glassjaw.
Things hit warp speed in seconds, ‘…Bartender’ giving way to ‘Mu Empire”s fluttering intro and allowing the New York quartet’s latest rhythm section to prove their worth. It’s a greatest hits set from there on out as the band pour out ‘Pink Roses’, ‘Ape Dos Mil’ and ‘The Gillette Cavalcade Of Sports’ in quick succession. No time for pleasantries, no time for chatter; not a word is uttered between powerhouse hits, the shuffling intro to ‘You Think You’re John Fucking Lennon’ the only breathing space permitted.
The crowd, predictably, bring the madness. East London’s premiere sweatbox lives up to its reputation, a sea of soggy outstretched palms greeting frontman Daryl Palumbo’s every cry. By the time ‘Siberian Kiss’ gets an airing, a besuited bouncer is forced to take to the stage to quell the chaos. After a half-hearted attempt to shift a speaker back into place, he retreats, relinquishing control to the throng.
After that, something special occurs. A band more elusive than a Donald Trump apology lay themselves bare in one of the most intimate, stripped back surroundings London offers. A venue usually reserved for those taking their first steps becomes ploughed soil for the seeds of hardcore’s finest as they return to the throne, debuting songs from a new record that many thought would never emerge.
“The tension of Glassjaw’s years in the ether feeds into every barbed note of album three.”
The recently unveiled ‘New White Extremity’ begins proceedings, its live debut kickstarting the first breaths of Glassjaw’s third full-length. The tension of Glassjaw’s years in the ether feeds into every barbed note of album three, their un-pin-downable mesh of hardcore punk, noise and hip-hop swagger pulling in all three directions with the force of a freight train. No studio trickery, no overdubs or samples - this is four musicians tearing themselves asunder, opening up after four long years away. The crowd’s chaotic reaction subsides, replaced by awe.
“Thank you for being friendly, this is our last song,” shrugs Palumbo after a half hour of wonder, six brand new songs let loose. “Honestly, good to meet you all.”
They close on perhaps their most euphoric moment to date. It’s fitting, given Glassjaw’s penchant for turning left where other groups might duck right and dig deeper into heaviness, that the New Jersey troupe soar skyward. On the evidence of tonight, Glassjaw’s forthcoming - so long-awaited that fourteen (!) years have passed in the interim - new LP might just be one of the year’s most special moments. For the crowds who surround Palumbo at the merch table as he waits for well over an hour, signing and taking photos with everyone who asks, tonight’s as magical as it gets.
Glassjaw played: ‘Tip Your Bartender’, ‘Mu Empire’, ‘Pink Roses’, ‘Ape Dos Mil’, ‘The Gillette Cavalcade Of Sports’, ‘You Think You’re (John Fucking Lennon)’, ‘Jesus Glue’, ‘Siberian Kiss’, ‘New White Extremity’ and closed on six brand new tracks.