The Bronx @ The Underworld [12/02/2013]

By Tom Aylott

Unsurprisingly, on a chilly Tuesday in February, many have chosen to stick to the pub rather than see Northern Ireland’s Axis Of, but the three-piece make sure the few in early attendance are thoroughly entertained. The Portstewart lads are a hard act to pin down, landing somewhere in the middle of the fuzzy grooves of Queens Of The Stone Age, the anarchic riffage of Shapes and the taut post-hardcore dynamics of Jetplane Landing. It may be thanks to the notorious sound of The Underworld, but bassist/chief vocalist Ewen Friers’ four-stringer sounds positively thunderous throughout, as the band romp through cuts from brand new full-length “Finding St. Kilda” alongside older material. The boys are extremely polite, ensuring to thank the crowd between each number, and their energy and charm even inspires a prompted but effusive singalong moment with the steadily gathering crowd.

Single Mothers have been on the receiving end of a considerable amount of hype of late, having dropped their self-titled EP last year on Touché Amoré vocalist Jeremy Bolm’s Deathwish imprint Secret Voice. Hailing from the Ontario namesake of the city they are playing in tonight, their sound isn’t a million miles away from the headline act, but keeps things strictly old-school, taking cues from the likes of Iggy And The Stooges, Descendants and Keith Morris-era Black Flag. However, their “party boy” attitude fails to translate to those in attendance, and the Canadians never really step out of second gear to impress this sold-out crowd.

From the moment The Bronx stride exuberantly into their first note, tonight’s masses eat out of the palm of their hand, as the Californians commence their two-night residency in Camden. Now into their second decade as a band, the quintet play an absolute blinder from front to back, reaffirming their status as one of the very greatest live acts around today. Unlike their last UK jaunt which solely showcased numbers from the fourth in their series of self-titled albums, this set encompasses their entire discography, ripping through a punishing 90 minute set. Vocalist Matt Caughthran, looking like a dapperly-clad mix of a giant baby, Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and WWE superstar Ryback, warns the crowd from the off that “if (he) sees anybody not moving, I will find you, and I will kill you”, but his murderous tendencies need not be explored as not a neck nor a fist in the room lays still, particularly during numbers like “Six Days A Week”. After an impromptu chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the crowd (Caughthran celebrates his 34th tomorrow), the singer buries himself amid the ensuing chaos during “They Will Kill Us All Without Mercy”, and the band plunge headlong into a brutal double-team finisher of “Heart Attack American” and “History’s Stranglers”. LA’s finest sons are nothing short of incendiary tonight, fully living up to the high standards they have maintained throughout their career (the band were offered a deal by Island Def Jam after only their third show), and we can only hope festival slots beckon; if so, look forward to a summer of hoarse throats and flying bodies.