LIVE: Against Me! / Billy The Kid @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Ben Tipple

When a show arrives with as much hype as Against Me! generated in the build up to their eagerly awaited return to the nation’s capital, inevitably it’s going to go one of two ways. Either the performance will ultimately find itself crippled by the magnitude of the anticipation placed upon it, or this anticipation will quickly turn into a wave of excitement gripping on to the one thousand strong audience.

Even as Billy The Kid delivers her carefully crafted one-woman blues rock and roll, the latter becomes abundantly clear. In a venue that often struggles to attract punters for the support acts (Camden has its handful of distractions), Billy Pettinger is faced by a throng of animated onlookers. Although the singer-songwriter’s delivery may lack intensity, Billy The Kid’s vocals are unmistakably gifted. Guest, and increasing rival for Brian May’s ‘surprise appearance’ crown, Frank Turner is especially welcomed by a huge cheer as he joins her on stage for ‘This Sure As Hell Ain’t My Life’.

The majority of tonight’s cheering however is reserved for the headline act. Although the Electric Ballroom may be small in comparison to other venues dotted around London, from the moment Against Me! rip into ‘FuckMyLife666’, this could easily be the biggest show of their career. Throughout the set there is a passion and force only hinted at by the band in the past. Seemingly stronger than ever, Against Me! fuse their overwhelming sense of enjoyment with earnestness.

Laura Jane Grace twists and turns with visceral intensity as she spits the lyrics to ‘Drinking With The Jocks’ – one of many moments where she completely lets go and loses herself in the music. The new material blends seamlessly into old, with huge receptions welcomed for both ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’ – the second part of a double-whammy opening duo – and ‘Black Me Out’.

Voices roar, shaking the venue’s foundations as Against Me! tear through the title track from 2007’s ‘New Wave’ – an album which finds its feet tonight behind the band’s renewed vigour. ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ sees voices raised once more, providing one of the most euphoric live moments of the year; presumably leaving smiles on faces for days to come. The crowd’s excitement is further demonstrated by their rendition of ‘Sink, Florida, Sink’, filling the void between the main set and the encore. Against Me! are humbled as they return to the stage before topping it all off with a rare appearance of ‘We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules’ – almost blowing the roof off the Electric Ballroom.

Against Me! have cemented themselves as absolute beasts in the punk-rock scene. The perfect balance of recreation and intensity is enough to relight a fuse – to spark and reenergise passion in live music. The four-piece are renewed, refreshed and raring to go. It’s an infectious attitude that enthrals and compels in equal measures, and it’s the voice of a band that have waited more than a decade to say what they have wanted to say. If you thought Against Me! were good then, you should see them now!