There are still people who believe that by reforming, Refused have spat on their legacy. That no matter what they do now, it is not enough to make up for the fact they went back on their word. Personally, I think that’s bullshit, and as the final notes rang over the Glasgow Garage, you can’t help but feel sorry for the people that because of their own stubborn nature, will miss out on the band these punks have become.
Before we get there, though, Anna Von Hausswolff kicks things off. On paper, some people might find her inclusion on a punk show an unusual one. Her discordant, atmospheric noise pop (is that a thing? Who knows) seeming out of place with the mohawked crowd. However as she works her way through her set all becomes clear. This is challenging and inventive music which at times, as Anna howls into the mic, becomes almost hard to listen to. It shifts from light and airy to dark and heavy and builds an almost claustrophobic atmosphere in the still near empty Garage. It’s unlikely to be for everyone, but Von Hausswolff’s music doesn’t give a shit about the rules and on a show like this, that makes perfect sense.
Talking about music that doesn’t give a shit about the rules, Refused hit the stage like a thunderclap. Kicking off with ‘Elektra’ it isn’t actually until they launch into the ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’ that the crowd truly unhinges, but from there on it this is pretty much perfect. Refused are still a band with something to say, and while it is almost a cliche to point out that ‘Rather Be Dead’ is more relevant today than it was twenty years ago, it is true, and it feels all the more powerful as Dennis climbs into the crowd to sing it with them. Over the course of the night, he talks to the fans on subjects as wide-ranging as the recent Belgian terror attacks, feminism and his gratitude for the path they have walked. Refused’s message is as important today as it was back when they started this thing.
Of course, this is a rock show, and it doesn’t matter how important the message is if the music isn’t good. Well thankfully, Refused are fucking good. Dennis is at the centre of everything they do and even as he pulls off some frankly awful dance moves, he is still the coolest person in the room. Anyone else climbing onto the amps and thrusting their crotch in time to a snippet of ‘Raining Blood’ – which they play during the bridge of ‘The Deadly Rhythm’ – might look ridiculous. He, however, looks fucking awesome.
Those songs have also stood the test of time, not just as political anthems but as pure fucking ragers. Whether it is ‘The Refused Party Program’ or ‘Refused Are Fucking Dead’ their controlled chaos never fails to hit the mark. Even the throbbing riff of ‘Dawkins Christ’, one of the weaker songs on the new album, suddenly makes a lot more sense live.
Refused are one of those unique bands that are just better than everyone else. I don’t give a flying fuck what you believe about their legacy, in 2016, they are a vital and exciting musical act. I can’t claim to have been there when it all started, but I am damn glad to have been around when they are doing their thing in the here and now.