“The next tour is gonna sell out,” Frank Carter promised us at The Sugarmill, Stoke gig back in November last year. “So don’t go leaving it ’til last minute then start complaining you can’t get f*****g tickets!” . How right he was! After the phenomenal reception of second album Modern Ruin, all twelve dates sold out faster than a rattlesnake shakes its tail which meant that accompanying me tonight were friends that had travelled from across the UK, just to be at one of these shows.
Generally I like to start my reviews with the trusty format of build up, anticipation, queuing up often in the freezing cold outside favourite venues impatient and full of high hopes. Today however was a little different. In a dark rehearsal room, sitting on an office chair under a spot lamp, watching The Mighty Boosh, I was one of the few privileged fans who’d applied for and was successful in being allocated a tattoo sitting with Frank prior to his show.
What we talked about? Well that’s between myself and Frank, I was there as a fan of tattoos, his music and art and those reasons alone. So why am I telling you this? I guess I just want to emphasise what an incredibly humble, genuine and open-hearted soul sits behind the persona that is Frank Carter; which comes as an immense, downright contrast to the colossal being who commands his audience night after night.
Entering the venue itself, The Asylum is purpose-built with a capacity of 600. The walls are adorned with signed pictures, drum skins and various other artefacts left by previous bands. The bar staff are dressed in kinky medical gear and it all feels slightly Rocky Horror Picture Show. Looking up to the rafters draped in large inflatable Jägermeister bottles, I can’t help grinning to myself; that’s gonna be Frank’s playground.
Due to getting caught in cross city traffic, the first band are already on when we arrive and we catch the second half of their set. Yonaka already have a few heads nodding along to their alternative rock sound in the rapidly filling venue. Vocalist Theresa Jarvis is instantly mesmerising with her compelling, soulful expression. She seems to captivate the audience hurling her arms and filling the stage completely with her delivery. Dark and brooding, their tunes are catchy with groove-laden riffs that are capturing the audience as they slowly venture nearer to the stage. The tracks begin to bleed into one another for me and I find myself drifting slightly, but not for long…
A couple of us decide to head up front at this point if we’re to get a good spot, and thank God we did as the next band up, Strange Bones just about blew my mind. Being the punk fan that I am, within thirty seconds this band had won me over. Storming out to police sirens, wearing a “Theresa May is a terrorist” t-shirt, rolled up jeans and oxblood Doc Martens (perfectly matched to the colour of his Gibson SG) frontman Bob Bentham screams into the mic and an assault of noise ensues. Before the track is halfway through, Bob is over the barrier and in the middle of the crowd on his knees in an all consuming guttural gnarl. Up again, he peruses the crowd, eyeballing each of us, screeching into the mic, I love this kind of intimidation at a gig, it is quintessential punk.
This is however by no means an act, returning to stage, stripping off and applying a balaclava, we’re treated to a barrage of incredible punk rock tracks, some of which I’ve been listening to non stop since; “Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus”, “Big Sister is Watching”, “We the Rats” and “God Save the Teen” for which Bob demands audience participation, finishing with a dive onto the now fully aroused crowd. Feral, highly emotive and intrusive, these were the perfect openers for the headline act, the crowd are pumped and they leave to rapturous applause.
The venue is rammed by now, I’m one row back from the barrier and the atmosphere is spine-tingling. The stage is lit red, and Motörhead’s version of “Sympathy for the Devil” fills the room while chants of “Frank” repeatedly ricochet around the venue, buried in claps and stamps. The opening riff of “Snake Eyes” is heard and for a split second I wonder if he’ll actually walk on in heels. Dapper as ever, in a pinstriped suit, the man himself takes to the stage and the roof is literally taken off; the party is about to begin.
Frank doesn’t stick to the rules and makes his way immediately off-stage and onto the bar (left side of the room), the mosh pit moves with him and all hell breaks loose as he launches into politically infused “Trouble” and high-octane “Juggernaut” from debut album Blossom.
“This next song I wish I’d written ten years ago” he announces. “Maybe if I had things would be different today, this next song is for all the girls in here that want to surf but have never felt safe enough to do so, now’s your chance. These women are mothers, daughters, sisters but most of all: your equals. Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve.” Huge cheers and girls in their masses fly overhead to the highly charged “Modern Ruin” leaving no doubt in Frank’s incredible talent in songwriting.
Lifting the mood with love song “Wild Flowers”, circle pits form and I’m amazed at the dynamics in here. Fans that are a good twenty years younger and older than me, all charging around having the time of their lives and the huge grin on Frank’s face is infectious; he can hardly sing because of it! “Vampires” also carries this lighter mood, and as far as I can see there’s not a still body in the building.
Returning to stage we’re treated to a beautiful, stripped back version of “Jackals” which is in complete contrast to the ferocious fifty-six second punk onslaught version on Modern Ruin. Here, Frank bares his soul to the entire crowd. Followed by a sublime version of “Thunder” building to an incredible crescendo of sound; and intense noise which The Rattlesnakes exquisitely bring to the table. “Fangs” and “God is My Friend” practically have Frank’s vocals completely drowned out by the singing crowd. I’m clinging on to the barrier for dear life almost ready to bail out when the opening notes of “Neon Rust” begin and my heart skips a beat. Sinking to his knees and clutching his chest, you can feel the complete sense of responsibility and guilt he conveys in his lyrics, about the state of the world we are leaving to our future generation. Visibly moved and choked in his vocals, it’s one of the most passionate performances to date, Frank practically crawling off stage, emotionally spent.
The encore begins with Frank telling us he’s just learnt to play guitar and we watch him drown on stage in a fit of giggles as he tries to play and sing “Bluebell”. Then it’s utter carnage as “Lullaby”, ” Devil Inside me” and “Paradise” are launched down our throats at full throttle. There’s no way out; it’s mosh or die. Frank climbs off stage along with Dean Richardson (guitar) who doesn’t miss a note as they both crowd walk, Frank performs an epic head stand, complete love and trust here between himself and the fans, before being carried back to stage. Repeatedly he thanks, the band, team, security, venue staff and fans. This is a man completely on top of his game right now and you can see he knows he’s only there because of those who surround him with love and support and his gratitude is immense.
It wouldn’t be a Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes gig without going out on the bluesy number “I Hate You” that Frank wrote: “For each and everyone of us…” to aim at those we feel necessary. It’s a therapy session in itself, screaming your lungs out, and we’re in an Asylum of sorts after all.
This has been one hell of a show. My only regret: not getting to more than one show and there’s only two dates left to this current UK tour. But with a string of festivals announced this summer, do not miss a chance to see the incredible Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.