LIVE: Alexisonfire / Boston Manor / Higher Power @ O2 Academy Brixton

By Yasmin Brown

After releasing their first studio album in over a decade, it’s fair to say this is the most excited fans have been to see Alexisonfire in a long time. Armed with an album’s worth of new music, as well as old favourites, tonight’s Brixton headliner is a recipe for success, and we couldn’t be more ready to indulge in every second of it.

Kicking off the evening are Higher Power, a band making a name for themselves in the UK, appearing as support act and sitting on festival bills all over the nation. Tonight, the crowd is sparse and somewhat tired throughout their 7:30pm set but Higher Power refuse to concede, relentlessly bringing the energy and playing their part of warming up the crowd as well as the environment allows.

Boston Manor face similar struggles. A band that ordinarily sees carnage from the first note, front man Henry Cox has to work hard tonight to loosen up this Brixton crowd and work hard he does. Midway through the set during ‘England’s Dreaming’, the crowd having been urged to move forwards and it finally feels like the band have won us over, subsequently engaging enthusiastically in the ‘Funeral Party’ call and response before being told to get sweaty – a request that’s quickly followed as moisture starts to fill the air, creating a sticky yet satisfying atmosphere. With crowdsurfers first appearing during ‘You, Me & the Class War’, this finally feels like a Bozzy show. Band and crowd alike feel more comfortable and everyone is more than ready for tonight’s main event.

Given their huge return with the release of ‘Otherness’ earlier in the year, the triumphant music that greets the band as they walk on stage seems apt, as do the deafening screams coming from the sold out crowd before them. It’s this same crowd that drowns out the band as ‘Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints’ kicks in – an old favourite from 2006’s ‘Crisis’ and a perfectly raucous way to kick off tonight’s endlessly chaotic set. 

This whole evening feels very much to be all about the fans, as guitarist and co-vocalist Dallas Green passes on the recent ‘Sans Soleil’ to us, noting that sometimes songs get a new life after being played live and that “this is yours, now”. It’s a particularly emotional part of the set that builds a connection between the band and every person in the crowd, wherever you might be located in the 5,000 capacity room. 

Even if you couldn’t feel the tangible connection tying everyone in the venue together, it’s clear to see as those in the seats stand eagerly, screaming along to every word ingrained in their minds. The energy, regardless of where you are, simply never waivers, helped along by the fact that carefully conducted instrumentals tie every song together seamlessly, never a lull to be found. 

Everything is cemented, too, in the concept of “otherness”. Not only is it the title of the band’s new album, but also an all encompassing theme of the band as a whole, something borne out of a phone call between Green and guitarist / co-vocalist, Wade McNeil wherein the former simply said that they can be “weird forever”. Alternative music is built on a foundation of outcasts and people who feel a little different, and tonight you can feel “otherness” become “togetherness” without anyone having to change who they are or what they stand for. 

This anecdote is followed by a stunning performance of ‘Blue Spade’ – an anthemic and almost celestial song that takes you to new heights and showcases the trio of complementary vocalists (McNeil, Green and the ferocious George Pettit), as well as cementing the musical prowess of all five members in this almost six-minute shining opportunity. 

‘The Northern’ is another one of these opportunities, prior to which there’s a venue-wide singalong of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the band’s lighting technician – further warming up our vocal chords ahead of the religious experience that is 2009 masterpiece, taking us to church whether we want to be there or not. The extended outro is one of many, but arguably the strongest of the night, leaving you rightly wondering whether Alexis’ claims of being “The only band ever” are more accurate than we suspected. It’s hard to imagine ever feeling quite so touched by a band as we are by this Canadian five-piece tonight, and whatever your faith (or lack thereof), it’s easy to believe tonight that there’s something greater than us out there. 

While encores are fast becoming a thing of the past, Alexisonfire continue to embrace the anticipation that comes with leaving the stage for a short moment, and as we’re still reeling from the cathartic singalong that is “Young Cardinals”, they’re back for three more of their very best. Starting off with ‘Committed to the Con’, it’s ‘This Could Be Anywhere in the World’ that really reignites our fire to an uncontrollable blaze – a forever favourite that helped define the youth of many of us here tonight – before ending the evening with ‘Happiness by the Kilowatt’. Yet another mind blowing performance, and the best way to end this phenomenal evening, we’re left wondering if there’s anything this band can’t do and it seems the answer is a categorical and undisputable, “no”. 

Walking out of one of our favourite London venues dripping with sweat and bursting with a deep love for this band, there’s nothing we would have changed about tonight. And while the long wait for new music may have fuelled tonight’s fire, we sure hope it won’t be another decade and a bit before we get to feel such energy again.