LIVE REVIEW: Fucked Up, Big Cheese, Clarence, Lafayette London, 18/03/2023
Lafayette may be a venue with a short history and more exposed brick than an episode of Grand Designs, but if its hosting shows like this one on a slightly colder than expected Saturday in March, we can imagine it developing a colourful and exciting story in the years to come.
Different acts have opened the bill on each date of this tour, and in North London on this Saturday evening, Clarence got to open up proceedings. Despite his best efforts, a very sparse crowd were more politely accepting rather than rabidly enjoying the show, and it was a clear that he couldn’t quite tailor his approach to how he interacts with a crowd clearly here for the very different oeuvre of the headliners. 6/10
No such problems for Big Cheese, main tour support. This Yorkshire group is perfectly suited for this crowd, immediately filling the Lafayette stage like they have at least a 40% majority equity stake of it. Frontman Tom Hardwick looks like an indie singer but attacks like a hardcore one, also finding time to banter with the audience. Big Cheese give this crowd what it wants, their mix of being both very Yorkshire and very Sick Of It All is a complete joy to listen to and experience. Having had their debut album mixed by Jonah Falco of Fucked Up, the love this band has from the headliners is clear and evident, and when Falco comes out to play on a song, the crowd loves it like a late goal, and you can tell Falco is stoked to smash the drums like they owe him many months of rent. The set flies by, feeling like its over in seconds, such is the energy and wallop. An incredibly fun performance that had all the things you’d want from a support slot. We hope they can go onto even bigger shows in the future. 8/10
In case you may not be super familiar, Fucked Up are not a band who choose to live within the traditional confines of hardcore, their various albums and influences have as much in common with conceptual artists you’d find exhibiting in a gallery next to a Pret a Manger as a bunch of lads and lasses in a basement third on the bill at an all-dayer. They are a band with not one, but two feature length concept albums whose storylines make their contemporary equivalents seem uninspired by comparison. New album One Day feels like a deliberate “fine, you get a straight-ahead album” but with a typically ingenious caveat of everyone writing their parts in no more than 24 hours, as per the idea of creative mastermind Mike Haliechuk.
The beautiful clash of influences and approaches that make Fucked Up such a compelling proposition are first in evidence through the choice of intro tape, a recording of One Day More from Les Misérables. The set featured nearly the entirety of their absolutely wonderful new album One Day. Opening with Found, the band are clearly excited and play it with absolutely furious intensity. Damian Abraham’s presence at the front of this band is so very compelling, moving, stomping. It’s a slightly tweaked line-up, as they are using Big Cheese guitarist Maegan Brooks as a live member, which she plays like she’s been in the band for years. Abraham is incredibly complementary, in the classiest of touches towards her for pulling double duty.
I Think I Might Be Weird follows and the mood keeps itself high leading into a rapturous reception for Queen Of Hearts, the first song proper from the 2011 concept album David Comes To Life. Typically, this is played at hyper speed, Falco keeping the beat absolutely rock solid. Abraham takes a bit of time to talk about whether cannabis would ever be legalised in the UK, and it may have slightly saddened him when he received an incredibly British, and pessimistic response to the question “do you think weed will be legalised here?”. A lesser frontman would have let that affect the set even slightly, but this is a man who knows his audience and not for a second does he let the mood drop even slightly.
Excellent versions of songs like Normal People, the title track of the 2014 album Glass Boys, almost apologetically introduced despite being a wonderful song from an underappreciated album and Joy Stops Time, featuring Brooks on the lead vocal part, bring the main body of the set to a close, and whilst the crowd would have gone home happy there, the obvious encore that’s not really an encore reaches truly deep into the band’s past for Police, originally released in 2002. A joyously received Turn The Season, especially from the corner this reviewer was standing in was also greatly appreciated by the crowd.
The absolute highlight was saved til last, like a most delicious pudding. A truly mesmerising version of Dose Your Dreams, Sandy Miranda and Falco’s rhythm section building the strutting groove for what feels like about twenty minutes, before the song properly kicks in. This performance eventually goes into an extended jam session, which gets increasingly strange and ends with the band members except Miranda and Falco leaving the stage, when Tom Hardwick from Big Cheese casually ambles on stage and picks up Haliechuk’s guitar and somewhat noodles on it with such casualness you can’t help but smile like when your friend wins a prize. Whilst the show was excellent, it would have been unstoppable if not for the moments where the vocals were literally inaudible, like someone had switched the microphone off for a mediocre prank. Honestly, that’s the only thing that one could have a moan about, but when you have a band putting out and playing songs as good as Lords Of Kensington, Nothing’s Immortal and One Day, you get over it pretty quickly.
Canada’s most unique punks are still ahead of the pack and as vital as they have ever been, decades into their career. Whilst there are those who wish they managed to become a bigger deal, like non-Canadian fans of The Tragically Hip, their status as perennial pioneers and cult heroes can never be disputed. 9/10
Written by: Louis Tsangarides