Send just one writer to just one show? Nah. Clash loves …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead enough to hit ‘em up twice on the same tour, in both Manchester and London.
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Manchester Academy 3 / April 16
“God bless Conrad Keeley” reads a text on Clash’s mobile minutes after the gig. The frontman hasn’t aged a bit since his band’s visceral breakthrough in the late 1990s, and almost 15 years since founding the band he’s leading punk-rock brothers to nightly mass. Tonight …Trail of Dead are on fire, catapulting a noisy, rattling hour of new and old tunes. They may look like a bunch of down and outs, but the six-piece is still one of the most important touring rock groups alive today.
As expected, new album ‘The Century of Self’ (REVIEW) is well represented and there are a healthy number of classic stomps thrown out along the way. New songs are performed with vitality and immediacy: ‘The Far Pavilions’ is heavy, druggy psych-rock, and ‘Isis Unveiled’ rocket-fuelled punk. Keeley barks cult leader words over post-rock guitars and hell-raising instrumentation in a frantic, incendiary outro. Proggy, otherworldly lyrics continue to be explored, but with there’s a fresh musical agenda for …Trail of Dead these days.
Re-energised after ditching their unsupportive major label, golden oldies ‘Mistakes and Regrets’ and ‘It Was There That I Saw You’ are played with much verve, breathing new fire into their genre-defining bones. The transformation from the stressed, bored men this writer observed at the same venue two years ago is a revelation. Great to have you back, …Trail of Dead.
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London Electric Ballroom / April 23
The room is more full than it has any right to be, given the band on stage is a) no longer a part of the major label machine and b) onto their sixth album (so, you’d assume, playing to a fanbase that dwindles with each studio release). Out of sight, out of mind – the adage rings true for many but, seemingly, not …Trail Of Dead.
Of course, it helps that your latest album is a triumph, ‘The Century Of Self’ quite clearly the Texas-spawned band’s best since the high watermark of ‘Source Tags & Codes’ back in 2002. From it a handful of sparkling efforts are sourced, but it’s clear that the electricity in the room – how very apt – is building for familiar favourites, those songs that soundtracked a misspent university career, fuelling limb-flailing nights in dingy clubs and the cab ride all the way home, that ringing in the ears every bit as enjoyable as The Real Deal.
Heads are thrown back, arms raised aloft, as ‘Mistakes And Regrets’ and ‘A Perfect Teenhood’ receive their inevitable airings – when you’ve such gems in an impressive catalogue, to not play them is a terrible crime. While erudite frontman Conrad Keely prowls the stage’s front, behind him his players deliver the skull-pounding percussive goods, while keyboard nuances carve deep grooves into the solid rock amp-face. Keely’s enthusiasm for the material doesn’t appear to have waned any – skip a few words he may, but only because the front dozen rows are screaming them back at him.
The band’s energy is infectious – creeping towards middle age some members may be, drummer-cum-vocalist-cum-guitarist Jason Reece carrying a significant paunch as he ploughs through the crowd to find the Ballroom’s raised viewing platform, stage left as we look at it, but their commitment can’t be doubted, their performance without compromise for aching bones or sore joints. With smiles plentiful in the room, it’s clear that affections haven’t lessened in the years since …Trail Of Dead were Big News in the industry, the most dangerous live band to have come out of America since the one immediately before them. Slip into the shadows they may have done commercially, but the material continues to shine quite marvellously.
And it’s this quality control – balanced by ‘The Century Of Self’ after a pair of so-so releases, little from which is played this evening – that marks …Trail Of Dead as a band that will always strive for moments like this: a packed room, the smell of spilled beer and sweat in the air, a union of souls clambering to reach a similar high. May their relating of ways never cease.
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Manchester review: Alistair Beech
London review: Mike Diver
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead