We Review Alexisonfire, Manchester. What Happened?

Back when Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire announced that they were reforming earlier this year, it sent a certain section of the internet into something of a meltdown. Appearances at Slam Dunk Festival only served to stoke the fires of excitement, so that when the promised new album dropped, things were almost at fever-pitch for those to whom the band meant everything.

It’s a feeling present tonight as we once again head through the double doors of Manchester Academy, a venue that, this month at least, we might as well camp outside of. While it’s obvious that people are excited, the sense of expectation as palpable as the heat from 2500 bodies, there’s the small matter of Blackpool’s Boston Manor to attend to first.

Though starting life amongst a wave of pop-punk bands, they’ve never been easy to define. And their recently released album Datura (dusk), only taking them further from their roots. It’s this album that forms the backbones of tonight’s set. The likes of ‘Passenger’, ‘Crocus’ and ‘Foxglove’ all showcasing just how far the band have come since their early days. A fitting support that succeeds in whipping the crowd into a frenzy of expectation.

And it’s a feeling that only increases as the band’s stage time draws closer, reaching fever pitch as the house lights dim and Alexisonfire emerge onto a Manchester stage for the first time in nearly fifteen years.

The response they receive is immediate, launching straight into ‘Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints’ from third album Crisis, as mosh pits open and a breakneck pace is established, rarely relenting throughout the band’s 12 song set. ‘Boiled Frogs’ marks the second track from Crisis, a blistering and explosive outing for the fan favourite that sees the entire crowd become one heaving mass of bodies.

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Of course, tonight is part of a tour in support of the recently released fifth album Otherness, and though there’s surprisingly little in the way of new material on offer, we don’t have to wait long before we get a taste. ‘Sweet Dreams of Otherness’ and ‘Sans Soleil’ both bookend an emotionally charged ‘Adelleda’; the more recent material showcasing just how far the band have come since the days of their self-titled debut.

Indeed, 20 years have passed since the band emerged onto the scene, yet it’s clear from the rapturous response of tonight’s audience that time hasn’t changed just exactly what this band means to so many. A mid-set outing for ‘Accidents’ sees the room explode in a fury of mosh-pits and bold crowd-surfers that on occasion stray dangerously close to the aforementioned pits.

Just how much the band means to tonight’s crowd becomes abundantly clear as the opening notes of ‘This Could Be Anywhere in The World’ ring out across the Academy. Another offering from Crisis, it’s as anthemic as it is cathartic, as visceral as it is melodic, and it’s the perfect song to close the main set with.

Naturally, it doesn’t take long for the band to appear back on stage, as a deafening roar engulfs the venue. What follows is a gloriously weighty encore in the form of ‘Young Cardinals’ and ‘Happiness By the Kilowatt’, both of which serving to whip the crowd into one final frenzy of flailing arms and elbows.

And just like that, it’s all over. We’re left breathless and sweaty, aching yet cleansed. 12 songs might seem like something of a short set, but when each track feels like an exercise in brutal catharsis, less is almost certainly more.

Photo credit: Derek Bremner (@del_photos)

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