Anti-Flag – Camden Dingwalls

By paul

Anti-Flag / King Blues
Kingston, McCluskys
Saturday May 23rd

McCluskys is a very unorthodox venue for this, a very unorthodox gig. It?s bright sunshine outside, late afternoon, when Mouthwash take to the stage. These boys are getting around at the moment, but it?s the first time I?ve had the opportunity to see them in years. The place is already pretty much as busy as it?s going to get ? a few stragglers follow in later, but most people were caught a bit off guard by the news that Anti-Flag would be planning a gig in the suburbs, with a curfew before most people even leave the house. Mouthwash take advantage of a crowd made up of a fair few King Blues fans, playing their laid back ska-core in a way that suggests they?ve been touring hard recently. They have self-assurance in abundance, almost arrogance, which carries the set nicely. The tunes are pretty catchy ? they maybe lack something that some of their contemporaries ? especially the King Blues themselves ? have, but they know how to write a decent tune for a sunny afternoon. Just a shame we have blackout curtains going on. (3)

The King Blues take to the stage now almost as an institution. Some of their songs are (rightfully) becoming unifying tunes that define the current UK scene. They can simply do no wrong on stage anymore ? this may be the 7th or 8th time I?ve seen them this year ? they have never been anything other than album perfect. We all know the songs ? My Boulder sending out kind of karaoke waves across the 400 strong crowd. Itch?s new poem, ?5 bottles of shampoo?, is a nice surprise ? no wonder they?ve made their way into the current BBC poetry initiative ? I just wonder how the man can maintain such a great memory for remembering lines of 3 and 4 minute poems after a few Strongbows. Kudos. Quite simply, they are the UK?s best band by such a long way, that they will only now ever disappoint you on any one night if you judge them by their own outrageously high standards. (4.5)

Anti-Flag get all the same criticisms as King Blues ? those who dislike the politics jump at the chance to rip into both bands, whilst simultaneously giving them both the kind of free publicity that few could dream of. So, no wonder that A-F make several onstage comments about the link and friendship between the two bands. It?s nice to see.

But the main link between the bands ? I think – is that both are pretty much at the top of their game. Anti-Flag?s last couple of albums may have divided opinion ? some say they are passed it ? but their live show is as intense as ever ? with the added bonus that their new, slightly more epic tunes give the old, 2 minute, 4 chord songs something to be contrasted against. The band are simply fun to watch ? they have not just 1, but 2 incredibly charismatic front men ? Chris #2 is born to talk on stage. He spends at least a couple of songs in the crowd, a couple of others playfully toying with them ? Justin is a lot more focused and quiet, but both can pull out a monologue at any given opportunity.

As ever, their choice of songs is a little frustrating ? their back catalogue is now so huge that you have to accept that a lot of songs you want to hear won?t get played, but they seem to make some slightly odd choices of tunes ? ignoring singles and anthems in favour of album tracks and lesser known songs. Today though, it barely matters, a lot of people know every word anyway. They finish with an encore of no less than 3 Clash covers ? the feeling is that they are pissing about a bit in front of a small-ish crowd ? all 3 covers are met with a room half loving it, with the half frowning at the rape of a classic or two. Me, I just love the fact that a band can wear their hearts and influences on their sleeves without giving a flying fuck what people think. (4.5)

So, by 7.45pm it?s all over, and there is none of the usual worry about missing the last trains. It?s been a strange show ? day time, in a night club, but those who were fortunate enough to get a ticket witnessed a memorable show.