LIVE: Alkaline Trio / Taking Back Sunday / Destroy Boys @ O2 Academy Brixton, London

By Katie Conway-Flood

’90s punk rock is still alive and kicking, and tonight’s co-headlining show down at the o2 Academy, Brixton – between two giants in the game Alkaline Trio and Taking Back Sunday – only solidifies that statement. Trio’s ‘From Here To Infirmary’ and Sunday’s ‘Tell All Your Friends’ provided the soundtracks to skater kids youth, early noughties punk rock and emo at its peak. Two decades later and that rush of throwback euphoria can be felt all around the Academy’s ancient looking room, through the hustle and bustle of feet finding their place on the slanted floor of the venue for an all American line-up. It’s a line that’s completed by comaparatively recent newcomers, Destroy Boys, for a night that proves this alternative subculture, no matter how much older it’s elder bands get year by year, will never crash and burn. 

Warming up Brixton before the co-headliners come onto stage, Californian punk-rockers Destroy Boys bring a visceral and passionate expression of love, loss and the ultimate betrayal through songs such as ‘Vixen’, ‘Crybaby’ and closer ‘I Threw Glass At My Friend’s Eyes And Now I’m On Probation’, putting on a garage punk display,perfectly fitting for what’s still to come.

The first half of tonight’s co-headliners come onto stage with a bang. The lines that act as safety guidelines for the crowd on the slanted floor are packed to the brim and the balcony is at full capacity, and its only 8.30pm. Taking Back Sunday take to the stage, kicking off their co-headliner with ‘What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?’ taken from the band’s third studio album ‘Louder Now’, exuberant vocalist Adam Lazarra having the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands from the get go. 

The set features some absolutely classic Sunday cuts including ‘Liar (Takes One To Know One)’, ‘Cute Without the ‘E’’ and closer ‘MakeDamnSure’, and the live reception they receive brings them bounding back to full life – that classic chorus in the closer “I just wanna break you down so badly/Well I trip over everything you say/I just wanna break you down so badly/In the worst way” receiving a colossal response. The energy levels are beyond electric and the atmosphere is dosed in the fond nostalgia that only a track like ‘MakeDamnSure’ can muster. One of the best Taking Back Sunday sets in the band’s twenty year long career, they’re a tough act to follow and Alkaline Trio certainly have their work cut out for them.

The punk rock times continue to roll as, following the earlier casual appearance of front man Matt Skiba, the rest of Chicago collective Alkaline Trio walk onto stage. A raucous reception rings out for these punk rock mainstays for set opener ‘Private Eye’, an old time classic that provokes immediate sing-a-longs and a “Holy Shit, London” reaction from the band’s very own Dan Andriano at the sight of the impressive turnout for the Trio.  

Second song ‘We’ve Had Enough’ perhaps receives a bigger arms-wide-open welcome than its predecessor, its infamous opening gongs and bongs kicking the energy into absolute madness. Igniting a frenzied mosh pit and hysteric levels of chaos and carnage, ‘We’ve Had Enough’ doesn’t get this crowd saying that just yet. 

 By the time we reach the fifth and sixth songs of the setlist ‘I Wanna Be A Warhol’ and ‘Nose Over Tail’ – the latter a track to which vocalist Matt Skiba introduces as “a song for the people of England’ – the audience are suitably reminsicing in a setlist heavily made up of songs from earlier Trio albums such as 1998’s ‘Goddamnit’, 2001’s ‘From Here To Infirmary’, 2003’s ‘Good Mourning’ and 2005’s ‘Crimson’ to no one’s disappointment in the slightest. 

Keeping everyone on their toes midway through the bands length eighteen song setlist, Trio divert to the classic ‘Armageddon’ and the audience’s reaction is priceless. ‘Armageddon’ – or as Alkaline preferred to refer to it as ‘Camageddon’, renaming the song after someone in the crowd – comes as a pleasant surprise to this Brixton crowd, the classic chorus of “Armageddon, let the light in/Before we say goodbye, give us something to believe in” ringing around the room at maximum volume. 

Ending their run on ‘Radio’ and ‘Time To Waste’, Alkaline Trio round off their time by bringing Brixton’s roof down. ‘Radio’ earns the loudest singalong of the night, most noticeably with the shouts that accompany the former’s opening line “Shaking like a dog shittin’ razor blades”, and ‘Time To Waste’ achieving the exact same.    

“A tour that has been three years in the making”, remarks Andriano, and the wait was worth all those 1,095 days. For both Alkaline Trio and Taking Back Sunday, this returning run overseas has seen two heavyweights from the punk and rock games respectively prove that all these years later, they are still as good live as the first time they stepped onto much smaller stages decades ago. Fun, humour and jubilation in much needed abundance.