Pennywise – London Shepherds Bush Empire

By paul

Sunday 16th May
London, Shepherds Bush Empire
Pennywise, Strike Anywhere, A Wilhelm Scream

I missed the local support band this evening, so I can pass no judgement at all. But never in my life have I heard such unanimous mutterings from all parts of a venue about how terrible a band is. I have no idea who they were, their name or anything, but they certainly left an impression on the (maybe) 1500 strong crowd. I did arrive in time to see A Wilhelm Scream run around like men possessed. I have never quite understood the band on record or when I’ve caught them before in smaller venues, but the New Bedford 5 piece were damn fine this evening. Opening up with the familiar ‘tie me up to the radiator’ mantra, I think they made a fair amount of new fans. What was great to see was the smiles on their faces. They are a bunchy of slightly geeky skinny white boys just loving shredding. And fair play to them. They have the technical punk thing cornered. (4)

Last time I saw Strike Anywhere was a few months back supporting Propagandhi. I was convinced then that maybe the support slot is not their natural habitat – but tonight they were as good as I’ve ever seen them. They were tight, together and all over the stage. Thomas was on fiery form – showing his knowledge of UKÿpolitics as well as the usual socio-political observations. The set borrowed liberally from most of the back catalogue ? and testament to the power of their tunes is that they didn?t even play a single tune of my favourite record, To Live In Discontent. A pit ensued as the first notes of ?We Amplify? rang out. A cheer was sounded when they said they would be playing Reading and Leeds. Set closer ?I am your opposite number? was simply awesome. Strike Anywhere are simply a ubiquitous band these days. (4.5)

And yet, there is only one band EVERYONE is there to see this evening. The one, the only, Pennywise. Back on these shores after a lengthy hiatus ? and this time, with a twist. The departure of Jim led to the temporary (and now permanent) inclusion of Zoli from Ignite on vocals. And you could sense that most people in the crowd were either waiting with a sense of worry, or with just mass excitement at the prospect of hardcore?s finest vocalist singing Bro Hymn.

It seems like Pennywise kind of know they have something to prove this evening. They cop a lot of flack from the usual corners for the standard criticism of lack of variation. Copped more for the last couple of records not reaching many fans? expectations. And then a bit more still for carrying on without Jim. So, tonight we are treated to a brutally tight and, at points, ridiculously fast-played set. The song selection is a fair bit different to the standard one of the past few years (I sensed Zoli got to choose a lot of his favourite songs) and the result was an old-school crowd pleasing mix of songs from About Time and Straight Ahead. A few surprise inclusions (including Try from Full Circle and an acapella led Stand By Me) make for a set that is pretty much faultless. In fact, my only complaint could possibly be that they didn?t play for long enough. Zoli slotted in nicely ? leaving his trademark pipes in 2nd gear and singing much as Jim always had done. I, frankly, cannot wait for new album and his input. So, Pennywise. Back. And simply, still the best. (5)