If there’s one thing to take away from Defeater‘s vitriolic live show, it’s that Derek Archambault‘s father was a bastard. Good thing for us though, as this angst and anger provides some seriously combustible fuel to drive the band’s hardcore engine. Tonight sees the band scour the breadth of their catalogue, from the throat-shredders of old to the Americana-tinged acoustic rock of their newer material.
The second thing that’s clear about tonight is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on this tour. The night starts with uninspired but perfectly serviceable hardcore from Cardiff’s Goodtime Boys (***), whose rasping assault receives polite applause from a crowd still getting the drinks in.
More Than Life (***) fair better, inspiring a white-hot pit of dedicated fans in front of the stage, scrambling over the Fleece’s dancefloor pillars. Again, there is little to separate their noise from a clutch of other young bands making waves in UKHC, but they provide the requisite thrills.
Now, Caspian (****) are the odd ones out on this bill, but their oppressively heavy soundscapes provide a welcome refrain. They put everything into their stage performance too, throwing themselves around the stage, with a rather explosive ‘Gone In Bloom And Bough’ providing a highlight of their set and indeed the night.
Despite the feeling that everyone in the room is here to see Defeater (****), the response from the crowd is surprisingly subdued as the band take to the stage. Luckily, the mood is swiftly lifted with opener ‘Bastards’, a flagship anthem from latest release, ‘Letters Home’, which sets the intensity for the first half of the set.
Of course, the acoustic guitar makes an appearance as the rest of the band leave the stage to let Derek indulge in some Bruce Springsteen fantasising. Surprisingly enough, this refrain is the highlight of their set, with heartfelt songs like ‘But Breathing’ and ‘I Don’t Mind’ adding a certain poignancy and melancholy to the otherwise testosterone-soaked atmosphere. The best reactions tonight are garnered from visits to earlier material; ‘The Red, White And Blues’ bristles with intensity, while ‘Cowardice’ detonates in the second half to hails of screams.
When Defeater hit their stride, they’re a thrilling proposition and they visibly give it their all. But, a combination of sleepy Sunday apathy and a crowd that for the majority responds with polite appreciation rather than seething fists, there’s a feeling that something failed to ignite tonight.
Written by Grant Bailey