Some bands it seems, at least for me personally at any rate, have a hypnotic allure about them that, despite better judgements, just keeps on pulling us through those venue doors and keeps us clicking on Spotify. One such band, at least for me and the friend in attendance, are Alkaline Trio whose penchant for macabre lyricism and overall feelings of self-deprecation prove to big a draw for the 14 year old emo kid inside of us. And as such we file through the doors in to possibly one of Manchester's sweatiest venues (The Ritz) with feelings of both nostalgia and reservation, I'm reminded of two words I spoke after their last gig, “Never again”. Of course I knew after I said them I would ultimately find myself eating them at a later date, washed down with some traditional pre-gig ciders. One can only hope that devouring them so ravenously won't give me a major case of heartburn.
First up on tonight's bill are Scottish punks The Murderburgers, and though we arrive late after wrongly assuming there was only one support, we both make a mental note to check out the band behind what's possibly either the best (or worst) name we've heard all year.
The second support tonight comes in the form of New York's Bayside and whilst their sound might not be anything out of the ordinary, particularly to those of us who spent the early part of the '00s crying a lot and then posting on Myspace about it, but it's particularly in keeping with the evening's lite-emo overtones and even though they're just the main support on this tour, with the energy and the passion the band deploy on stage, you would be forgiven for thinking they were headlining. Complete with their own banner behind them, the band rattle through such fan-favourites as 'Montauk', 'Big Cheese' and 'Devotion and Desire' fantastically well. It's all too much for some people though, as a girl with panda eyes and a You Me At Six hoody swoons and passes out. Whether it's the heat, or whether it's the shock of an earlier generation of emo/pop-punk bands doing it better than those today, we never find out. The house lights drop and the now-familiar ominous entrance music starts as Matt Skiba and co take to the stage.
They start strong, and immediately rattle off two early crowd pleasers in the shape of 'This Could Be Love' and 'Hell Yes' before new(ish) song 'She Lied To The FBI'. And therein lies the ever-present problem with Alkaline Trio's gigs – the more recent material. It's not that it's bad per se, it's that it just doesn't go down as well live as those from their extensive back catalogue. Of course, one can't expect a band not to play their newer songs, after all, there would be no point in writing them otherwise. But when tracks such as 'I Wanna Be A Warhol' and 'Dine, Dine My Darling' (the latter of which sees many people suddenly finding themselves craving a cigarette) are included in favour of tracks such as 'Armageddon' or 'Nose Over Tail', you've got to begin wondering what caused their shift in songwriting.
With such a huge array of tracks at their disposal though, it's wrong to dismiss them over a setlist, especially when songs such as 'Sadie' or 'My Chainshaw' go down as well as they do, proving to be timeless mainstays in Trio's live shows. There are, however, a couple of sound issues throughout the night, which sees the bass barely audible above the guitar, before swapping places during the aforementioned 'Sadie'. These are ironed out reasonably quickly though.
Closing with a quartet of classics allows the night to end on a high however, with 'Stupid Kid', 'Warbrain' and 'Private Eye' seeing the crowd sing louder than the band. The highlight of the evening however comes right at the end with 'Radio'. Perhaps one of Alkaline Trio's most popular songs, and ultimately the one which spawned thousands of MSN screennames the world over, the response it gets prompting Skiba to announce to the crowd that “This was the best night of the tour”. Cliched hyperbole that may be, and in fact we hope so. If tonight was the best night of the tour, then it wouldn't say much about the other dates, and whilst still an enjoyable band to go and see live one can't help but think that maybe they're a little past it these days, after all, a shaved head, sobriety and veganism don't make for good punk records. Not unless your name is Ian MacKaye.