LIVE: Stray From The Path / Polar / Dead Harts @ Underworld, London

By Dave Bull

In a time of global uncertainty, it is important that people come together, to talk, to enjoy each other’s company and not forget what it means to be human. It is this movement of positivity that sets us apart from monsters.

It is this movement that Stray From The Path are fighting for, and their performance at the Underworld tonight reminds us that social movements do work, that a strong message, if shouted loud enough does permeate the socio-political membrane, and that when governments and armies are fighting, people can still come together for something more rewarding than hate or retaliation; the love of music, the love of interaction, the true essence of being human and being alive.

Stray From The Path have not cancelled their tour due to terrorism, they have bravely carried on, against frontman Drew’s mothers’ better judgement, him stating that “fear mongering and terrorism aren’t going to stop him from saying what he has to say”.

Hat’s off to the promoter for the line-up, the intensity being suitably ramped up from one act to the next, the indefatigable crowd seemingly buoyed to interstellar proportions.

First up are Sheffield’s Dead Harts, a noisy, shouty, in your face hardcore offering who do more than their fair share at ramping up the tension. Frontman Matthew Baxendale goads the crowd and manages to get five likely lads to throw some shapes throughout, complete with a bottle of Newcastle brown; generally pulling off a very solid opening act performance. They are ones to keep an eye on, despite an increasingly oversaturated market.

Next up, London’s Polar who have had a big 2015, and it shows. There are an increasing amount of fans down front wearing various pieces of merchandise, and the stage seems set for a right ol’ knees up. They open to ‘Blood Lines’ which gets the party started, before tracks from ‘Inspire, Create, Destroy’ get a good singalong, and there’s even a Spinal Tap reference of “let’s turn this up to 11”. Jolly good.

There are a few who are genuinely having the time of their lives, and the promise is all there for Polar. There is an enjoyable crowd huddle around vocalist Adam Woodford as he enters the melee, before ‘Glass Cutter’ shows the bands ability to mix heavy with good old fashioned melodies and strong choral punches.

The performance is very strong, and the only downer is that everyone who is invited to sing along as Woodford dangles the mic in the crowd, sound like they’ve recently had a tonsillectomy, the offering weak and unfitting to the general atmosphere. Don’t give up your day jobs to be singers you lot down the front! The best bit came in the shape of a mass sit down as the song picks itself up to the frantic drop where the whole room goes into splendiferous meltdown for the remainder of the track.

Stray From The Path take to the stage like a goaded Staffordshire bull terrier with huge industrial springs tied to it’s legs. It was menacing, it was exciting and it was wholly unpredictable. ‘Outbreak’ sounded enormous and the crowd resembled a tumultuous, bulging river, the Underworld not seeing a crowd like this for some time.

Tonight was all about coming together and no album better personifies this idea than Stray’s 2015 record ‘Subliminal Criminals’, a raw, visceral punch in the throat to police brutality, pedophilia and war. Drew is not afraid of speaking up about the things that need speaking about. He outwardly discusses themes of terrorism and unity against it and about the atrocities caused by Front Porch Step and Ian Watkins.

It is real, and it is this realism that drives the audience to new and unseen levels of crazy. ‘D.I.E.P.I.G’, about Front Porch Step, is like a war head exploding in your face and there is a real comparison, both musically, lyrically and live with the seminal Rage Against The Machine, who caused a similar stir with momentous and ground breaking live shows.

‘Eavesdropper’ which has Rou Reynolds on the album as support sees Polar’s Woodford do his version, a much more hardcore, scream version, but none the less effective. ‘First World Problem Child’ squeezes that final drop of sweat and energy out of the crowd, the famous poles of the Underworld standing strong, midst a war zone of arms, legs and huge grins.

Stray encore with ‘Badge And Bullet’ which perfectly closes of an amazing night of hardcore. The only shame is that the set was quite short at 40ish minutes, but does as Drew reiterates “give you a chance to catch Beartooth” who are also performing in Camden tonight. But hey, it probably won’t be too long before you can catch them again, and the old adage of good things come in small packages is none more true than this performance. The band announced it after, but this was truly one of the greatest performances that the Underworld has ever seen.