In terms of heavy music, Liverpool seems to have become a bit of a relic of the North-West touring circuit in recent time. Seldom is Liverpool graced with a gig of this calibre (the odd Def Leppard gig in the Echo not with standing), the overwhelming majority of bands hitting Manchester to cover this portion of the UK. But the beauty of off-dates (and indeed, the beauty of a band like Cancer Bats) is that they often afford a band the opportunity to step outside the accepted barriers. Simply put, Cancer Bats cannot afford days off. And this is not the first time their hellish schedule has paid dividends directly to us.
We arrive in time to catch the opening band Turbogeist, they had a little under 30 minutes to impress the crowd, so they took that opportunity and did just that, showcasing tracks from their upcoming E.P.They got a good reception from the Liverpool crowd and I spotted a few Turbogeist tee’s here and there, all in all a very strong opening band.
Then is was time for the local alternative troupe Always The Quiet Ones [8/10] give tonight’s headliners a serious run for their money. Even with their ever-increasing notoriety locally, the level of professionalism ATQO display from the off is astounding. What’s instantly striking is the songwriting prowess they possess, despite the fact that much of the audience (and this writer) are largely unfamiliar with these tunes. And tunes they have in droves. There are riffs so peculiar you would never think to write yourself, but never losing sight of a pulse and a hook, the band have an innate ability to compartmentalise all their idiosyncrasies into something far more subtle and simpler than most bands could accomplish.
They prove to be quite a challenge for tonight’s headline act to follow. Nevertheless, they may be a long way from home, but there’s an abundance of love in the room for Cancer Bats [8/10] tonight. Groove merchants in a hardcore disguise, the band launch into ‘Bricks & Mortar’ to open their set, with the ever-affable Liam Cormier quickly establishing a “you’re-one-of-us” rapport with his audience. ‘Sleep This Away’ may just be the heaviest song about sleeping ever written, carrying with it the spirit of Black Sabbath and sounding positively devastating in a live environment. The band acknowledge the importance of these small off dates inbetween songs, but they serve a greater purpose than simply keeping the payroll going. They serve to remind us that this is the Bats’ natural habitat – small, sweaty, intimate clubs that can barely house their colossal sound or limitless energy. At heart, they will always be a hardcore band, but that doesn’t make their essence of fun any less important, as their take on Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ (surely their defining moment thus far?) will attest to. But what’s most heart-warming about tonight’s set is how they choose to end it. Penultimate number ‘Hail Destroyer’ is about as close as Cancer Bats have ever come to writing a classic, and there is hardly a soul in sight tonight who isn’t belting out every word. But they bid us farewell on ‘R.A.T.S.’, one of the highlights from last year’s fantastic Dead Set On Living, and how much it not only complements the song that preceded it but also gives the evening a feeling of finality points to something very special indeed in Cancer Bats’ future.