What frequency are you getting? Is it noise or sweet, sweet music? We’re all dressed up, we’ve got somewhere to go! Refused party program! Boredom won’t get me tonight! CAN I SCREAM?! Refused are NOT fucking dead—and their show at the Warfield in San Francisco last night proved it. After a 14-year respite, the band is back despite their manifesto to the contrary. Even with the lapsed time, Dennis Lyxzen, David Sandstrom, Kristofer Steen, Jon Brannstrom, and Magnus Flagge still bring 100% to the stage.
In explaining their reunion, Refused explained that they wanted to serve The Shape of Punk to Come justice, and tour the album as they should have but couldn’t back in the late-90s. As expected, the majority of the set came from Shape of Punk, but the band also incorporated some old favorites like “Coup d’Etat”.
Opening with “Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull,” Refused set the tone for a night full of nostalgic musical activism. Crowd favorite “New Noise” had the entire building jumping, shaking the floors and the questionable foundation of the history San Francisco venue. Would you expect anything else with the opening line, “Can I scream!” Lyxzen gave San Francisco a nice little shout out when he related “Tannhauser/Derve’s” line “boredom won’t get get me tonight” to all of the great things offered by the City. To mimic the muted start in “The Shape of Punk to Come,” the band walked off stage as the lights dimmed. About 30 seconds later, a prerecorded version of the opening riff started to stream over the speakers. And right on cue, Lyxzen came on stage to kick of the song.
Lyxzen’s high intensity, perfect vocals (how is that possible?), and stage presence make it easy to forget the band’s extensive history. At the age of 40, Lyxzen has distributed his strong political beliefs through his music and charged lyrics—most notably through Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Lyxzen’s break from the stage hasn’t hindered his intensity and crowd interaction in the least bit. The time off hasn’t negatively affected the rest of the band, either. The quintet played each song in tight unison as if they hadn’t missed a day together as a band. Although Refused started the set with seemingly little energy—I actually paused to question whether they could still put on a show—the band had the crowd fully immersed, shoving, and dancing by their fifth or sixth song.
Admittedly, I could not have left the show disappointed. The 90’s post-punk, early-emocore—it’s not a derogatory term!—and highly influential hardcore Refused sound created a cult following, partially due to their early split. Refused are one of those bands that I grew up wishing I could have seen live, and finally, twelve years later, it happened. And even though the Warfield is a much larger venue than anything Refused would have played in the 90’s, the production and energy still felt like you were in a tiny club in LA, watching a band you just knew would eventually be named one of the most influential of their time.
If you’re heading to Coachella this weekend, make sure to check out Refused on Friday night. Who knows when they’ll be dead again.
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