Support: Billy The Kid
Where: Electric Ballroom, Camden
When: 19th November 2014
Reviewed By: Dan Stoten
Standing in Camden's Electric Ballroom a little earlier this week, I already knew this was going to be a tricky review to write. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Billy The Kid (Billy Pettinger, acoustic punk singer-songwriter and support act to Against Me!) was, from my position mid-way back near the sound desk, essentially inaudible while speaking between tracks, and very quiet while playing... and consequently, thus, tricky to review.
- I had thought I knew a large amount of Against Me!'s back catalogue. It transpired this was not the case, so despite knowing their three latest albums well, there was a lot played here which I didn't know well.
- Finally, and probably the main reason for my relative writer's block on this show: I simply don't know what to make of it and how to present that in any sort of readable format.
I have a few salient points to make before getting into the review proper. Firstly, it was excellent to see Frank Turner join Billy The Kid on stage. From what I could hear of her (see first point above), Billy was excellent, with a strong voice and catchy, stripped back, folky-acoustic punk songs.
Secondly, despite having seen a huge amount of bands and consequently a huge amount of incredible drummers, I will quite happily say Atom Willard of Against Me! is easily one of, if not the best drummer I've ever seen live. The sheer speed, energy and what appears to be joyful vitriol with which he tears around his kit is an absolute art form and needs to be seen to be believed.
So, the gig. I don't want to talk too much about recent changes within the Against Me! camp; while equally, this was the first opportunity I have had to see the band since Laura's transition. Her stellar work in bringing the transgender agenda into the public forum has put her on the lips of many, her name almost becoming a household one with appearances on international television and in many widely-read publications. I had wondered, ahead of the gig, as to whether this would affect the musical element of her life.
I needn't have worried: the band were undoubtedly excellent as a whole, with Laura herself being equally strong. They sailed smoothly and almost serenely through an energetic set, one which had barely any pauses to catch breath for the first three-quarters of an hour. For me, I Was A Teenage Anarchist was a highlight, but there were many tracks which were excellent.
However, and I'm not quite sure why, but the gig just left me strangely cold. To be absolutely honest, I am attributing that to my poor knowledge of the band's back catalogue, and having not listened to the latest album Transgender Dysphoria Blues for some time; but it struck me that what I was enjoying most was watching Atom pound his drumkit into submission...
Hence: I'm not sure what to make of the gig and hence why I found this such a tricky review to write. To all intents and purposes, it was an excellent gig. I can't describe why, but it just left me feeling slightly disappointed.