Live Review: Alexisonfire @ Riverstage, Brisbane
After crushing the skull-hearts of fans all over the world by announcing their breakup in 2011 (due in part to Dallas Green’s increased focus on City and Colour), “the only band ever” Alexisonfire made a triumphant return to Australian shores this month as headliners of UNIFY ’17 and a run of reunion shows.
Named after the world’s only lactating contortionist stripper, the quintet have been cited as one of the most influential bands in modern Canadian music, with their (so far) four studio albums instrumental in raising the profile of hardcore and ‘screamo’ genres to now be part of mainstream music. Even though Brisbane’s Riverstage was only at most half-full, the now aged mid-thirties Canadian legends played with the same aggression, passion, and musicianship they first became known for over 15 years ago.
Following a lukewarm set from Melbourne’s The Getaway Plan, Alexisonfire walked on stage to triumphant music and a deafening roar from the thousands of fans dressed in their favourite black t-shirts. Lead by frontman George Pettit and lead guitarist Wade MacNeil, the quintet burst like a bull in a china shop into Drunks, Lovers, Sinners And Saints. Completing the ‘Crisis’ one-two opening with This Could Be Anywhere In The World, the whirlwind of lights and post-hardcore screams took everyone back to 2006 when the quintet were kings of the heavy scene.
A buzzing distortion interlude morphed into 2009’s Old Crows, where Alexisonfire’s signature triple-vocal attack sounded absolutely ferocious. Dallas Green’s softer verse melodies were screamed just as hard by the crowd as Pettit and MacNeil’s, “We are not the kids we used to be/stop wishing for yesterday”, chorus chant.
At times during the set it was hard to tell who was going harder, MacNeil and Pettit or the riotous mosh pit, and as such We Are Sound saw plenty of aggressive on stage antics and the night’s first circle pit. Green’s phrase “So raise up your hands” was emphasised with Pettit’s “Ah you feeling this Brisbane? Ah, horsesh*t! Repeat after me if you’re feeling this!”, evoking an even more frenzied mosh.
It was clear thanks to thousands of voices singing with Green that Boiled Frogs was the fan favourite, allowing Green’s voice to soar across the riverside amphitheater. Fellow ‘Crisis’ anthem Rough Hands saw the mosh calm to a gentle sway, and not even Pettit’s faulty microphone could break one of the most atmospheric and emotional songs of the set.
Crisis once again lit a fire under the mosh pit as a seemingly possessed Pettit took his aggressive vocals to a whole new level, while MacNeil helped the crowd deafen anyone walking through the nearby botanical gardens with the “1-9-7-7” chant. Mailbox Arson kept up the intensity, with a beautiful vocal bridge from Green the only thing keeping the song from becoming an unstoppable wave of distortion.
With the band taking a breather, MacNeil took time to thank both the adoring crowd and those behind the scenes that helped bring the Canadian icons back for their first Aussie tour since 2011, “This has been the best tour… ever! Thank you for believing in this band when we couldn’t, this one’s for you”.
The band’s older fans then roared with the opening riffs of 44. Caliber Love Letter, before the song slowly descended into what the band describe as “the sound of two catholic high school girls mid knife fight”. Over the next few songs bassist Chris Steele moved like a caveman performing a rain dance, while MacNeil moshed harder on stage with his guitar than anyone in the pit. Pre-encore, Pettit asked the crowd to “wake up the neighbours” in Young Cardinals, and thinking the set was ending every single vocal chord was strained as thousands screamed “Ohhh, young cardinals”.
Emerging one-by-one for the encore set, The Northern sounded more like a City and Colour song. However this false sense of non-screamo security was shattered as Pettit charged in with the song’s epic chorus. Green introduced Pulmonary Archery as “here’s the one that got the ball (our career) rolling”, and once again the mosh became a squirming mass of flailing limbs provoked by Pettit’s brutal screams.
Finally delving into their sophomore album ‘Watch Out!’, Accidents launched another circle pit made even more violent by epilepsy-inducing strobe lights. Those aware of their own mortality on the grassy part of the Riverstage, staying well clear of the now heaving mosh, once again played chorus for Green’s “Woah-ohh-ohhs”, while Pettit’s “lets redefine what it means to live” brought out an angst-filled growl from everyone.
In a bitter-sweet finale, Happiness By The Kilowatt saw Green’s voice once again soar about the quintet’s thrashing post-hardcore guitar work and Jordan Hastings’ incredible drumming. As the song slowly reached it’s atmospheric conclusion Pettit systematically bent every microphone stand in half, while MacNeil taped his guitar to his amp creating an endless cycle of feedback.
With the lyrics “Was this what we hoped for?” still ringing fresh in my ears, I walked out of the Riverstage thinking “ABSOLUTELY YES”. Don’t you dare breakup again Alexisonfire, and while you’re at it, please record a new album.
Photos by Nico Ford