The Used is, without a doubt, my favourite band. I’ve seen them play 10 times in the last nine years, I’ve waited countless hours to meet them outside venues (to no avail until this weekend) and am more commonly referred to as Sally Allman (as in former guitarist Quinn Allman) rather than my full name. I could rattle off more scout badge-like anecdotes to prove my fandom, but you get the picture. So, when I heard that The Used were returning to Australia to celebrate their 15th anniversary this December, I was obviously beyond ecstatic. Playing their first two albums in full over two nights in each city, their anniversary tour is a nostalgia-fuelled dream for any fellow or former emo.
My two favourite records of all time and the quintessential soundtracks of angst-ridden teens in the early 2000s, The Used’s self-titled debut and In Love And Death hold a special spot in the hearts of all their fans. So, with that in mind, as well as the fact that The Used hadn’t toured Australia in two years, it was no surprise that their run of shows at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre this weekend were both sold out. Both evenings opened with the raw post-hardcore of Sydney locals and pals of The Used, Corpus, followed by Melbourne’s Storm The Sky, getting the crowds amped up well before Bert, Jeph, Dan and Justin even hit the stage.
As the house lights went down, the Enmore swelled with the excited screams of fans. Sorry to anyone who was in a 20-metre radius of me. You’ll probably have a ringing in your ears for the next few days. Following the track list of the self-titled record, The Used kick started the night with the manic Maybe Memories. Within seconds, the mosh transformed into a soup of flailing limbs and crowd-surfing punters. “This is my hometown show and it’s a very special night to be celebrating 15 years. We’re all here because of our love of music. Music can save people’s lives and it saved mine,” said Bert before they jumped into The Taste of Ink. Always a crowd favourite, Bert conducted the crowd on high with his skeleton-gloved hands as we yelled back every lyric. After blasting through Bulimic and Say Days Ago, Bert took a break to invite his daughter Cleopatra Rose on stage. “Can you do you me a favour?” he asked the crowd. “Could you help Cleo sing her favourite song?” To our absolute pleasure, it was the Play School opening song.
Considering the previous track was about crystal meth and drug addiction, witnessing the look of pure happiness on the now sober Bert’s face as he held Cleo on his shoulders and we sang “there’s a bear in there” was a thing of pure joy. It was in this moment that I truly realised how far he and the band have come since they formed 15 years ago. He then dedicated Poetic Tragedy to Cleo, kneeling down and singing to her as she stood alongside him. In the eight The Used shows I had seen until that point, this was the first time I heard this song live. A heartbreakingly beautiful track, it was an adorable moment and one of many on the night that truly showcased the prowess of Bert’s pipes.
“This is the greatest rock song ever written,” Bert said with a wry grin before the usual riff of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit opened A Box Full of Sharp Objects. Always one of my personal favourite points in a Used show, the crowd quickly turned into a sea of circle pits and crowd surfers once again. “This song is one of my favourite songs and it saved my fucking life,” confessed Bert before things slowed down again on Blue And Yellow. Also in my list of equal top three favourite The Used songs, this only confirmed my thoughts that Bert and I are meant to be best friends.
After flying through Greener With The Scenery and Noises And Kisses, the front man went for the feels again before the always stunning On My Own. “Whenever I can’t talk to my friends or my family or my wife, I put my headphones on and listen to this song,” he admitted. “I’m just stalling now because I don’t want this night to end,” he added with a laugh. Almost drowned out by the combined voice of the crowd, the band paused after the first verse as Bert closed his eyes and basked in the moment. “I want you all to leave tonight with the biggest fucking smiles on your faces!” he demanded. At that point, it was safe to say that wasn’t going to be a problem. As he belted out the final note, he raised a fist and the crowd quickly followed, arms shooting up like weeds everywhere you looked. My favourite The Used song ever, it was safe to say that I had regretted not wearing waterproof mascara by the time it ended and I too raised my fist in the air.
After Pieces Mended, the house lights went down once again and, just like at the end of the album, the sound of Polly (otherwise known as Bert’s surprise birthday strippergram) filled the Enmore before The Used returned for the chaotic Choke Me. Leaving the stage with the same aggressive post-hardcore purity they started with, The Used left us more than reeling for round two on Saturday.
Like most The Used shows, Bert did all of the talking and crowd-rousing both nights, but the rest of the band were also in fine form. There were many shared grins and high fives throughout the sets that proved that Bert wasn’t the only one having the time of his life. This tour is also the first time The Used has played down under with new guitarist Justin Shekoski since Quinn announced his hiatus from the band in early 2015. While Quinn isn’t easily replaced, Justin fucking killed it and seemed completely at home on stage with the other guys.
To celebrate the anniversary tour, The Used also offered meet and greet packages for fans. Considering I had once waited eight hours at Sydney airport followed by another five hours outside the Enmore Theatre (to name just one of many similar experiences) for The Used but had never met them, I jumped at this chance. So, on the night of the In Love And Death show, I arrived at the Enmore at 6pm for what seemed like a moment I had been waiting for my whole life. It might’ve only been brief but it was pure bliss. Offering to sign as many autographs and take as many photos as fans wished, The Used were just as humble and friendly as I had hoped. Plus, Bert said he loved my hat.
After the Corpus and Storm The Sky boys wrapped up yet another stellar couple of sets, the familiar monologue at the beginning of Take It Away marked part two of the Enmore’s The Used extravaganza. The stage set had been transformed into a life-size version of the album artwork, including a large heart hanging from a noose that burned red with each beat. Written during one of the most difficult times of Bert’s life, the In Love And Death show was always bound to be an emotional one. “In Love In Death was the main reason I wanted to do this anniversary tour. It saved my life,” said Bert before ticking off I Caught Fire, Let It Bleed and All That I’ve Got.
Photo: Sally McMullen
Next up, a cover of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me broke up the track list but still had the crowd singing along to every word while Bert sauntered around the stage. “This song is about bad sex!,” said Bert before Cut Up Angels got us back into the In Love And Death proceedings.
Just like the fluctuating moods on the album, the vibe could go from mellow to manic in a matter of seconds. While tracks like Listening and Sound Effects and Overdramatics had the crowd in a frenzy of flailing fists, songs like Yesterday’s Feelings and Light With A Sharpened Edge hypnotised punters into swaying and singing like a perfectly practiced choir. Naturally, Hard To Say was one of the biggest tear- jerkers of the night. Written about the overdose and passing of Bert’s first love and their unborn child, he spoke at length about what the song meant to him and its role as a cornerstone of the album.
Meanwhile, to welcome Lunacy Fringe, Bert gave the crowd permission from the behalf of the NSW government and the Queen of England to blaze up then and there. He was very disappointed when some people substituted joints for cigarettes, however, stamping them out with his skate shoes in disgust. “What a waste of $35!” he said with a cheeky smile and a defiant stomp.
When it was time for I’m A Fake, The Used were joined by Corpus frontman Keiron Steel to smash it out. Bert started reading the poetic prologue but soon held his mic out to the crowd to finish it off. “Love is not like anything. Especially a fucking knife!” the room boomed in unison. The following three and a half minutes were pure punk rock pandemonium. The fans in the first three rows (including myself) spent half of the song sheltering their heads as crowd surfers were hurled over the barrier and limbs were thrown around with reckless abandon.
While this was the closing track of In Love And Death, the band weren’t quite ready to call it a night just yet. Before they launched into the last song, Bert invited possibly the luckiest fan alive to join him on stage. After Bert donned their glasses and invited them to sit on Dan’s high-rise for the best view in the house, The Used closed the night with Pretty Handsome Awkward. A banger of a single from their third album Lies for the Liars, the high-energy punk-pop number was the cherry on top of a fucking fantastic two nights at the Enmore Theatre.
Over the weekend, I lost count of how many times Bert vowed that these two shows were the best nights of his life. He constantly spoke about the healing nature of music and its importance over any other vapid and meaningless distraction in this world. This was more than just a nostalgia tour. It was a celebration of the unparalleled and enduring power of music. I sang, I cried, I lost my voice and I possibly got a concussion, but I’m with Bert in saying that The Used’s anniversary shows in Sydney were the best nights of my life. It’s already been 15 years, but here is to another 15 and beyond. In the words of the master himself, “I’ll savour every moment of this”.
The Used’s anniversary tour continues tonight in Melbourne. Catch dates and details here.