Live Review: RX Bandits and Astpai – Academy 3, Manchester – 31/01/2014

Album anniversary shows are a funny thing. Depending upon however many years that album was released, there is always the big 50/50 chance risk one’s nostalgia could be crumbled to rubble. Progressive ska punk heroes, RX Bandits, for over the past year since their return from hiatus have been dedicating time to playing fourth full length ‘The Resignation’. This was a turning point for the band as it showed they were more than just a ska punk outfit. Its use of unusual time signatures, unpredictable soar and ambition was a masterstroke, in contrast to their Orange County peers. Technically, this tour is dedicated to the tenth anniversary of that record, but the European continent has only just got this by a month later into the New Year. Regardless, the turnout here smells of a nostalgic buzz, eager to see their favourite band play the album in full.

Before that fiasco plays ahead, the crowd needs tinder to light up the buzz for the night. This is provided by Austrian melodic gruff punks Astpai. The quartet injects a ‘full-speed ahead’ enthusiasm into their set. Shared vocal harmonies, a sharp bite, and toe tapping efficiency enable them to withstand a tightly constructed set. No one is bouncing around sure, but grins and satisfactions can be sensed in the crowd. They’re reserving the appetite until later, whilst watching a confident band plough through. One nit-pick from this writer is the familiarity and creeping repetitiveness, but Astpai are entertaining to behold, which is all that matters. (3.5/5)

Bursting with ‘Sell Your Beautiful’, RX Bandits initiate their play through of ‘The Resignation’. The crowd is enamoured from the get go, and reflect back the huge choruses from this album’s quirky prog punk offspring. What’s great is the crystal clear quality and delivery of this record; it’s as if the O.C. quartet were playing these songs for the first time. Straight forward bombastic political, integral numbers like ‘Prophetic’ and ‘Newsstand Rock (Exposition)’ kick up a storm. ‘Overcome (The Recapitulation)’ swims in a reggae influenced protest, which unifies the room in all its splendour. Eventually these efforts give way to the musically innovative pieces on the record, and they sound just as brilliant. ‘Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers’ is as seductive as it is on record; ‘Republic’ whips up a neat blend in riffs, mellowness and whimsy; and ‘Dinna-Dawg (And the Inevitable Onset of Lunacy)’ dips and dives in calculating tones. Yes, ‘The Resignation’ has been presented in fine form, thus solidifying a sense of timelessness to it, so nostalgia isn’t ruined.

However, as great as it sounds, a tiny criticism would be that the experimental pieces tend to make the show to drag on a little. This could be said for the encore as the band do go overtime with their hat trick of favourites including ‘Only for the Night’, ‘In Her Drawer’ and ‘Apparitions’. In spite of this, the audience do lap it up overall, since tonight has showed why RX Bandits are their favourite band. A fantastic warm up for their soon to be made seventh studio album, released sometime this year. (4/5)

4/5

Words by Aaron Lohan (@ooran_loohan)

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