Canadian post-hardcore legends Alexisonfire returned to the Melbourne stage for the first time since their emotional farewell tour in 2012 last night and the newly reformed quintet were greeted with such fervour that the clashing of bodies in the pit was probably heard all the way back in their hometown of St. Catherines, Ontario.
Earlier in the night, Hamilton, Ontario punk rockers The Dirty Nil were given the task of opening the show at the distinctly non-rock ‘n’ roll time of 6.45pm, but the raw energy and enthusiasm they brought to every note of their ferocious set was befitting of a headliner, something that if tonight’s performance (and their early-arvo head turner of a slot at Unify) are anything to go by, they’ll be in no time flat. Playing a unique brand of punk infused rock the three piece have the songs, (‘Zombie Eyed’ is a standout banger among a set full of them) the presence and the chops to be the next big Canadian thing.
Recently reunited one time Melbourne MySpace screamo scene kings Behind Crimson Eyes followed The Dirty Nil onto the stage, capturing the attention of the gradually building crowd with an even smattering of songs from across their catalogue, with the likes of ‘Shakedown’, ‘The Art of War’ and ‘Game of Life’ earning an enthusiastic response from the nostalgic late 20s/early 30s demographic that appears to make up the bulk of the show’s attendees. Sounding arguably better than ever, it might prove shrewd business to return on, at least, semi-permanent basis.
The Getaway Plan took the stage with a bold statement of intent in the form of new song ‘Battleships’ off of their criminally underrated 2015 release Dark Horses before launching into ‘Streetlight’ and ‘Shadows’ off of their iconic 2007 debut full-length Other Voices, Other Rooms, which (much like at Unify on Friday night) inspired an arena-wide singalong. This blend of old and new songs continued with the likes of ‘Dark Horses’ leading into the earworm ‘Flying Colours’ off of 2011’s Requiem, and ‘Where The City Meets the Sea’ followed by pounding slow-burner ‘Requiem’, one of many tracks tonight that showcase just how far The Getaway Plan have come in terms of musical maturity since their screamo scene origins. Vocalist Matthew Wright and guitarist Clint Owen Ellis (Splattering) continue to be a powerful tandem when left to their own creative devices and ‘new’ rhythm section brothers Mike (guitar) and Dan (drums) Maio provide added punch and musicianship especially on newer (and in my opinion better) songs. But in keeping with the nostalgic feeling of the night, it’s still ‘Where the City Meets the Sea’ that inspires the biggest reaction.
Taking to a stage that had been well and truly warmed by a trio of supporting acts, Alexisonfire hit the stage with a frenetic energy, opening with two of their most-loved tracks in the form of ‘Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints’ and ‘This Could Be Anywhere in The World’, ensuring the pit was active and the adoring crowd was in full voice from the get-go.
As frontman George Pettit’s vitriolic scream cut through the dynamic twin-guitar interplay of Dallas Green and Wade MacNeil and Chris Steele’s rumbling bass locked in with drumming powerhouse Jordan Hastings on ‘We Are The Sound’ it was clear that nothing as trivial as hot weather was going to stop Alexisonfire from gifting their devoted Melbourne fans a night to remember, and if the volume of the call and response segment of the bridge was anything to judge it by, the Melbourne fans were more than okay with that sentiment.
As the band played through a smattering of tracks taken from each of their records the floor became a constant blur of movement. Circle pit after circle pit opened up in reverence as Alexisonfire powered through the likes of ‘Boiled Frog’, ‘Rough Hands’ and to the sheer delight of old-school fans in attendance ‘.44 Caliber Love Letter’. In a set of wall-to-wall bangers such as this, there was little room for banter, but each of the vocal triumvirate of George, Dallas and Wade took a moment in the set to reflect on the band’s relationship with Australia, with Wade stating that after this particular show, this tour had risen above all others he can remember in terms of his personal enjoyment and Dallas taking a moment to thank everyone for making it possible for the band’s wildest dreams to be exceeded.
Closing out the set proper with an impassioned trio of ‘Dog’s Blood’, ‘Accept Crime’ and ‘Young Cardinals’, Alexisonfire made a brief exit before an inevitable but absolutely unforgettable encore of ‘The Northern’, ‘Pulmonary Archery’ (which sent the fans on the floor absolutely rabid resulting in the biggest circle pit seen at the venue in many years), early hit ‘Accidents’ and signature closer ‘Happiness by the Kilowatt’. Departing the stage in a sea of lights to a deafening applause, Alexisonfire walked off stage having delivered yet another memorable set in Melbourne, a city that loves them like few others outside of Toronto. Whether it was hello, goodbye (again) or something in between, it was an absolute blast to witness.
Gallery: Alexisonfire – Festival Hall, Melbourne 17/01/17 / Photos: Nikki Williams