10 years ago, when Modern Life Is War released Witness it made all kinds of waves all over the world in hardcore crowds and scenes.
Remembering my first time hearing it in full, it was like a sonic boom of angst and beautiful noise, sounding like the world crashing down around you with only a glimmer of hope in sight; sounding like last call at the last chance saloon.
Lyrics ranging from never ending American wars to materialism, tortured characters and tales of dark Americana, all coming in like a whirlwind just under the half hour mark.
Witness is a true standout in the modern age of the genre; a sound copied and rehashed by many a band since.
After recording one more full length with Midnight In America, the band proceeded to call it quits in 2008 before making a valiant return in 2012.
This is a one off chance then to hear the album delivered in full at the bands only headline date prior to their appearances at Reading and Leeds.
I’m surprised to find that the smaller venue in the Classic Grand is being used, but it’s certainly no disappointment: a platform stage raised barely off the ground with an open floor is exactly the type of scene set for this occasion.
No frills as the band setup to a slightly sparse crowd, but it’s clear to see from the get go that it matters not one bit.
As they start up with the defining opener of ‘The Outsiders (AKA Hell Is For Heroes Part I)’, the crowd surges forward with purpose: there’s gonna be a lot of singing along in the next half hour or so.
The band delivers with such precision in performance and sound, it’s unbelievable how good it sounds and how much like the record their sound is in the flesh.
Nothing is lost, the bass pulsating and the guitars so recognisable and unique in tone, sitting just right in the middle to let the vocals roar over the top.
Jeffrey Eaton regales anecdotes and talks personally to the crowd; it’s so endearing to see a band in their third year of reunion still talk with such clarity and hold such pure motives about the punk rock scene, about how it’s more than just a rock show, or a performance; it has to be more than that in order to survive.
‘John and Jimmy’ is a rip roaring tale of soldiers and the complexity of service, ‘Marshalltown’ follows heralding hometown sorrow, and the mic sways back and forth over a mass of faces shouting to the iconic ‘D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’
It’s such a gratifying half an hour, the sound contributing massively to the show, but I find myself smiling even harder when the band serves up a dose of their other classics, ‘My Love, My Way’ getting the best reception on a night where it could have easily been 10 years ago.
You certainly couldn’t spot any lack of heart or desire to perform here.
Words: Matthew Thomas