Glassjaw-London HMV Forum-20/03/2011
A rare event is taking place tonight at London's Kentish Town Forum, an event that occurs once a year, if that. That event is the appearance of ultra-influential post-hardcore kings Glassjaw on the UK stage. Having been plagued by illness, record label troubles and line-up changes for the last eight years it's a blessing that we still have this undeniably important of bands at all and the atmosphere is therefore quite rightly both tense and borderline hysteric on this chilly Wednesday evening.
First up though, both unusually and brilliantly, are influencers of the New York mob themselves in the form of grindcore legends Napalm Death. The Birmingham mentalists do a sterling job of entertaining, pummelling and terrifying the crowd through the likes of 'Instinct of Survival', an acerbic cover of Dead Kennedy's 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' and a humorous rendition of the second-long 'You Suffer', vocalist Barney Greenway's everyman quality giving an endearing front to a most crushing of bands. After their onslaught however the stage becomes sparse and a smoke-machine begins to gently exhale without relent until the stage becomes almost invisible and the house-lights go down making the audience momentarily blind. That is until GJ drummer Durijah Lang begins the ominously whirring drum roll to 'You Think You're (John Fucking Lennon)' and vocalist Daryl Palumbo strolls casually on stage to begin the roared catharsis his microphone shall receive for the next eighty minutes.
As many have come to accept, this is not the riot-starting Glassjaw of old with the band leaving their crushing rhythm guitar behind and moving all focus onto lead guitar wizard Justin Beck whilst Daryl takes centre-stage and the band focus on the technicality of their instruments more than getting in people's faces and tearing them off. This may be seen as a negative thing by some but, if you get past this fact, tonight the band are rejuvenated and on fire. Daryl remains one of the most brilliantly magnetic and unpredictable of frontmen and his demented shimmying during early choice cuts from classic second album 'Worship and Tribute' sends the crowd into a genuine frenzy. The unrestrained fury of 'Tip Your Bartender' sees fans flying all over the place, 'Ape Dos Mil' is the emotional sing-a-long we all want it to be and 'Pink Roses' sounds as visceral and mercurial as it does on record. Further in we're treated to a rare and brutal inclusion of fan-favourite 'Convectuoso' and, best of all, they end their main set on the immortal 'Siberian Kiss' with Beck's twisted knife-sharp guitar lines cutting deep and Daryl's soaring deliverance of its 'on phone lines and letterhead, I'm dying about' refrain stepping forward as one of the best live moments so far this year. The room goes truly and rightfully insane.
Not stopping there, the band return to perform the entirety of their new dub-inspired 'Colouring Book' EP as an encore. Although some are visibly disappointed, the faithful enjoy a flawless performance, breathing in delicate nuances within a growing soundscape, it shows just how far the band have come as musicians and serves as a great sign that the band are fully enjoying themselves again.
Although it may have taken a while to process, this shall certainly be one of the gigs of the year and a brilliant reminder that such a groundbreaking band are still very much alive and breathing.