I’m stood behind a post somewhere in the O2 Academy wasting precious energy on standing on the tallest hinge my tip-toes will let me. Somewhere out there is Frank Carter – the ginger string-bean frontman of The Gallows with flesh like a colouring book once owned by Avril Lavigne and a smug, self-gratified face only a fist could love.
The view, for the most part, is much more entertaining however. The audience, a myriad of furious, angst-ridden teenage boys and the occasional femme-brutale, are letting R-I-P.
The scene is so aggressive and fervently pent up that it almost requires an Acme sticker and some tweeting birds to orbit round bashed in brains and Pow! labels to burst out from fists and elbows.
Gus Van Sant would have a fucking field day with the amount of sweaty, teenage testosterone there is in the room.
People throw themselves and each other over the crowd, on the crowd, at the band, at the floor, off the floor, at each other – everyone is a human missile and they’re all detonating at once.
It could well be the first time an audience has outshone the band – The Gallows gawp in awe at the destructo-centric mass before them. Frank Carter holds the microphone repeatedly at the audience, half-arsed, and lets them sing a great number of the songs for him.
He’s got an unpleasantly arrogant presence that can only be assumed is being used to re-assert the fact that he’s ‘bloody punk rock innit’ – and involves staring smugly and somewhat blankly at the audience, and repeatedly calls upon the Johnny Rotten book of onstage insults with which to use on his audience – cunts, twats, fuckers. Yes. We are all of the above. Bravo for wit.
What Frank Carter fails to realise however is that his band, tonight at least, are mediocre at best and certainly not worthy of any kind of punk status. Their audience are fucking punk – heavy, passionate, unruly, wild, unpredictable, fun and a little dangerous – but Gallows definitely are not.
Carter, who’s allegedly repeatedly threatened to leave the band in order to carve out a successful career as a tattooist, looks humdrum and bored. His vocals regularly lack any sort of intensity – he’s like a gigolo of live music – just going through the motions, getting the job done, faking passion when it’s necessary and not bothering when he realises the crowd’ll go wild and batshit crazy for him whatever the fuck he does.
A small onstage entourage joins the band – replete with bored, ‘I’m too cool for this shit’ expressions they’ve supposedly learnt from watching too many early 90’s music videos and Winona Ryder movies. They sup from cans of Carlsberg with despairing looks in their eyes like men who’ve just spent three hours down the job centre trying to sort out their giro, and come out with nothing more than a free pen. Gutted.
Songs off recent album Grey Britain receive an unbelievably impassioned reaction with the audience believing in every word of the wannabe-anthemic lyrics they scream along to which disparage modern Britain, it’s drink culture, useless braindead government and organised religion. It’s actually a little inspiring, and whilst their lyrics are incredibly sixth-form most of the time, at least they’re in some way political and it’s something that their fans are clearly passionate for.
The gig reaches some kind of a peak around the moment in which Carter decides to acknowledge a fan’s birthday – ‘faaaaaarkin ‘ell. How old are yer then? 12?’ he turns around at his band who’ve already began playing a scruffy rendition of Happy Birthday and shakes his head mock-mortified. ‘Fuck, I’m only messin’ son – how old are yer? 18? Enjoy it while you can, it all gets fuckin shit from ‘ere’. The crowd obediently sings Happy Birthday to the poor kid before Carter cuts it short and launches into In The Belly Of A Shark.
A fitting finale comes in the shape of fan favourite Orchestra Of Wolves – again with Carter supplying half-arsed, eye-rolling vocals – a confused, surprisingly over-sentimental song that somehow manages to incorporate misogyny, vulgarity, folklore and the ethics of romance into one turgid fun-free fuck of a tune.
The crowd love it. Fists powerfully salute forward in receipt of the song – even the girls in the audience are happily and adoringly singing along – ‘You’re no good to me if you can’t even speak/I don’t you want you passing out when you’re sucking my dick’. Thanks Frank. I’ll bear that in mind.
The song’s ending, a sentiment last heard from the camp theatrics of the sickeningly lusty characters of Hollywood shit-fest Moulin Rouge is championed by the now loved up crowd who throw their arms around each other and yell ‘The hardest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return’. Uuuuurrgh.
Maybe I’m heartless, but all that talk of cock-sucking and ‘just learning to love and be loved’ made me wish I’d at least anesthetized myself with a few heavy slugs of rum prior to the gig. Nevermind. At least the audience were fucking amazing. So that was something.