Live Review

Alkaline Trio, Islington Academy, London

When hundreds of people love what is essentially a rubbish lyric enough to scream it at the top of their lungs – who cares where the edge is?

It take some bands longer than others, and for some it never happens. But Alkaline Trio, after eight albums and 15 years, have become a classic punk rock band. They’ve done the leg work – made the timeless albums, and the guff ones; self-destructed, reconstructed; built their following, shed the flakey types; honed their image, then grown out of it. Now, with their popularity cemented, their core of fans perpetually satisfied and their collective persona only set to change with retreating hairlines, all that remains is to enjoy.

Being invited to perform at Islington Academy’s tenth birthday party is not really correlated to this status, but the gig itself is a fair way to measure it. They arrive on stage, clad in black, tattoos and crucifixes to chants of ‘TRIO, TRIO!’, and launch into ‘Private Eye’. For the first few songs, vocalist Matt Skiba and his cheery sidekick Dan Andriano are drowned out by the crowd – ‘Clavicle’, ‘If We Never Go Inside’, ‘Cringe’ – classic after classic. To this audience, they don’t need to worry about playing ‘the hits’ or worrying about chronological variety, they just bang out what they want and everyone laps it up – ‘Blue Carolina’, ‘Trucks and Trains’, ‘Nose Over Tail’. The crowd are smiling – even when some newbies sneak into the setlist (‘I Wanna Be A Warhol’ sounds impressively huge) – and the band, too, are smiling.

Herein lies the problem with near-mythical status for a band like Alkaline Trio. They’re smiling. They’re all happy about how their band turned out and they’re loving life. The same cannot be said for the context in which debut ‘Goddamnit!’ was written. So, tonight, at the O2’s shindig (thanks for the music, O2), despite singalong after singalong and a healthy amount of moshing, it’s clear Trio have lost a bit of edge. So when Skiba wails “I lost it all!” on ‘Cringe’, it’s not that we don’t believe him, it’s just we reckon he’s probably won it back since 1998. There are signs of suffering and anguish from Skiba on ‘All on Black’ and ‘97’ – and the crowd responds with aplomb, but it’s just not quite how it used to be. But fuck it. When hundreds of people love what is essentially a rubbish lyric enough to scream it at the top of their lungs after 90 sweaty minutes – ‘I’VE GOT A BIG, FAT, FUCKING BONE TO PICK’ – who cares where the edge is?

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