Birmingham, Christmas time and the festive markets are in their full flow. Although cold and wet, there’s a great buzz amongst my group of friends (who have travelled the length and breadth of the country and flown in from Ireland) just to witness the spectacle that is Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. How apt then that we end up in a Peaky Blinders theme pub, given that the show itself has just aired Frank’s “Devil Inside Me” on one of this series’ episodes. I wasn’t, however, expecting my Music Editor to walk in at that very moment (you sneaky bugger, Ross) to surprise/check up on us! And with this being my fourth show, Frank really is that good and well worth the travel; tonight’s show amongst others being sold out.
To avoid the usual queuing around the block for an age (as is always the case at the O2 Institute), we wait a few minutes until after doors and get straight in. There is, however, a huge queue at the cloakroom unfortunately meaning I miss most of Ecca Vandal‘s set. Hot on the release of her debut album Ecca Vandal, this Aussie alt-rock artist puts in a punchy performance and I liked what I heard very much! Crunching riffs met with frantic drumming and oodles of attitude vocally, ensuring she was the perfect opener for tonight’s main act. I will definitely be looking out for her in the future.
Basement therefore came as a bit of a disappointment following the previous raucous set. Melodic rock songs were tightly performed and the sound produced was good, but it was just not to my taste. Although frontman Andrew Fisher was bounding around like a puppy on stage, the whole set lacked any real passion. It was like watching five individual musicians on stage with zero connection and they just didn’t do it for me.
The songs all blended into one and I struggled to distinguish between tracks. What I will say however is that they had a huge number of fans singing along word for word and bouncing around upfront, so it just shows music is all down to individual taste. However it seemed my friends were all in agreement with me, and we thought it seemed an odd choice to precede a punk rock act.
Our mood was soon lifted as the lights dimmed and a huge roar went up as The Rattlesnakes, closely followed by the man himself, entered the stage. Hoodie up, Frank swaggered on, no introduction needed. Opening track “Primary Explosive” blasted out and the place erupted, Frank and the band unleashing their unique punk rock, barbarous sound on us, launching then immediately into aggressively arousing “Fangs”, the crowd drowning him out vocally during the chorus and his glee was spread all over his face.
All fears of a less energetic performance due to a recent bout of tonsillitis (causing rescheduling of Dublin and Belfast shows) were soon put paid to, and it wasn’t long before Frank flexed his trademark move and crowd walked during “Juggernaut” – pure punk attitude and stare, he was in utter command of this venue. Glancing over I saw familiar ‘yellow mohican guy’ in the crowd, a regular face at the Birmingham shows.
Pop punk “Wild Flowers” was dedicated to all the women in the audience, Frank giving his usual and much respected speech on equal rights and safety at gigs, promising to rip off any groper’s heads with his own bare hands. The female surfers flowed and the rest of us bounced and danced our hearts out. I absolutely loved hearing “Real Life” live for the first time followed by new track “Spray Paint Love”, that the crowd sang along to as much as older tracks alike. Frank then talked about “Loss” a difficult track for him to sing, and we were treated to a beautiful and haunting stripped back version. Visibly moved, it’s clear to see this one pours from his very heart and soul and for a brief moment he let us into his vulnerable side.
The Rattlesnakes were on top form tonight, they just go from strength to strength every time I see them, delivering a ferociously tight punk rock set. Dean Richardson and Thomas Mitchener (guitars) throwing out the catchiest of riffs, matched by Tom Barclay’s filthy bass hooks, and who was the most animated I’ve seen him, really interacting with the crowd and seemingly loving every second. Gareth Grover is simply a phenomenal drummer, relentless in his attack and delivery.
Dedicating “Thunder” to the cowards that are Teresa May, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, Frank spat out his hate and fear as we approach an ever-nearing World War III. Frantic “Jackals” is less than 60 seconds of pure, furious punk; the crowd lapping it up and going insane! Frank then took a moment to talk about his mental health problems and suicidal thoughts, something he has always been very open about with his fans, and which also caused him to cancel some shows earlier this year. His voice strained, he thanked fans wholeheartedly and said he wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for us. He encourages anyone who is struggling to reach out and talk to someone. Lightening the mood by threatening to French kiss each and every one of us, he launched into explosive “God is My Friend” which stems from his struggles with life.
Arriving at the venue earlier, as soon as I noticed the reach of the balconies, I knew it wouldn’t be long before Frank was scaling the heights… I was not wrong. “Modern Ruin” saw Frank cover the whole balcony, his tour manager running along nervously behind. He climbed on the edge, hovering above the crowd before launching himself, complete trust that he will be caught. And he was – just! Taking a few moments to get to his feet his luminous green hair being rubbed by all those within reach, he clambered back onto stage saying he’s “Too old for this shit”. Collapsing back on stage (literally), he dedicated venomous “Paradise” to those “terrorist bastards”, leaving Dean to walk the crowd. “Devil Inside Me” closed the set, the crowd still up for it with bodies and fluids flying everywhere.
The encore completed an outrageous show with Modern Ruin‘s “Snake Eyes” and “Lullaby” and… well, it wouldn’t be a Frank Carter gig if it didn’t close with his iconic “I Hate You” from debut album Blossom. He stood back and soaked it all in. No need to sing, the crowd doing it for him, so much love and support and mutual respect in the room tonight. It’s one of the most heartfelt and passionate performances I’ve seen to date. And all this achieved in three short years.
I don’t think we’ll be seeing him in smaller venues for much longer. There are still a few dates left, if you’re quick.
- 6th Dec 2017 – Rock City, Nottingham
- 7th Dec 2017 – Norwich U.E.A, Norwich
- 8th Dec 2017 – O2 Academy Brixton, London
- 27th Jan 2018 – Tivoli Theatre, Dublin
- 28th Jan 2018 – Mandela Hall, Belfast