A copy of The Bronx (2003) was thrust into my school bag and I was told to listen carefully - 'live shows are always better when you know the songs' I was informed. How could she be so stupid - did she not realise I had been to see both Greenday and Blink 182 the previous month?!
I saw them on the 6th May 2004 in The Zodiac in Oxford with support from Danko Jones. It was a performance the like of which I had never seen before, and quite frankly haven't seen since. Perhaps it was the over-zealousness inspired by their first UK tour. Matt Caughthran (Lead singer) had quite clearly over indulged before the show and felt uninhibited enough to completely smash the stage up. He then had a public bust-up with the drummer (unhappy at seeing his lead singer launch himself into the drum kit - breaking both himself and his equipment).
The Underworld was to provide the stage for performance of comparative restraint. With sobriety came a purity of performance and an incredible intensity.
It was loud. Really really loud. Despite having a Bronx induced smile on my face for the next few days my hearing was like that of a washed up punk who has just been punched in the ear.
They started imperiously with Heart Attack American that blew away any residual cobwebs from the supports - Single Mothers and Axis Of. This was to be the first step into a set that would steadily whip the crowd up into an eventual fervour reminiscent of those seen in evangelical sermons in the deep south of America.
They Will Kill Us was a barnstormer of a song. Caughthran descended from the stage and passed through the crowd amidst rousing hysteria. A prolonged intro led to Mayhem. During a lull in the song, a moment of respite, I looked to my left only to be face to face with the grinning front man. At this point he uttered a guttural cry and the song hit full force again.
A moment was taken to acknowledge Caughthrans birthday. A verse of Happy Birthday to You rang out and a cake met a similar demise to the one in the video for History's Stranglers - the song that they then ended the set with.
The band clearly had a good time, and this is half of the battle won. What was lacking in tonal quality from the PA was made up for with mind-crunching riffs that were perfectly orchestrated and performed. It was a no-frills performance that exploited the essence of what they do - hardcore-punk, well crafted songs and good onstage banter.