From the very beginning, we knew we were in for something special when we saw the name of the band spelled out in giant, translucent white letters as members of the band were taking stage. Before the curtain dropped, a low ambient swell coursed through the Ogden like a sense of building anticipation. When Refused were revealed and went right into "Worms of the Senses," it was like getting hit with a wave of inspiring energy that didn't really end until the show was over.
Rather than sticking to its epochal album, The Shape of Punk to Come, Refused played some tracks from Songs to Fan the Flames of Disconent, including "Coup D'État" and "Rather Be Dead," the latter of which singer Dennis Lyxzén dedicated to the Russian punk band Pussy Riot. He prefaced the song by talking about how the Russian band had been sentenced to two to three years prison for protesting the church and the state, and said that if he got two to three years every time he did that, he'd be in prison for life. He then joked how Russia was being Russia again.
After a blistering run through "Coup D'État," Lyxzén apologized for taking twenty years to finally play Denver as Refused. And that the band had been doing high altitude training because of this Denver date. He then said, "So far we're doing really well -- not the playing but the fact that we're still standing up." Clearly the guy's dry humor is more genuinely witty in English than too many native English speaking musicians. After the witticism, the band erupted into "Hook, Line and Sinker."
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Each song was a marvel in how these guys could keep up the intensity and the energy for such a sustained period of time, especially Lyxzén, Kristofer Steen and David Sandström who kept up a hectic physical pace on stage. Even though this music is an unapologetic criticism of the modern, corrupt capitalist world, the sound was exuberant in a way that transferred that excitement to you. It was also joyous and it was obvious that the band was truly enjoying themselves as there were smiles all around.
People in the crowd knew these songs and chanted and sang along the whole show. You rarely see this level of crowd participation at any show. It was pretty much impossible not to get swept up in it yourself. Not just that other people were so into it but also that it was a real exchange of emotion between performers and audience.
Before socking it to us in the best way with "Refused Are Fucking Dead," Lyxzén told us that before touring again in this band he looked at the songs they wrote and how he had said all this "bullshit." But he also noted that the songs were still relevant and that we needed more music like that, music that's defiantly critical of the powers that be that want everyone not rich to be a slave, a pawn, a throwaway part in the machinations of the elite and the maintenance of their stranglehold on political and economic power.
"The Shape of Punk to Come" got a big cheer from the audience, and the band played off of that charge of emotion and the music felt like these guys were laying down the sound from the core of their being. The show ended with "Tannhäuser/Derivè" with a reprise of the "Boredom won't get me tonight" after Lyxzén told us we had been a spectacular crowd and to not let anyone tell you how to live your life; to "remember to stay fucking curious, stay fucking world and, my friends, remember to stay fucking hungry." If there's a band more excited to be playing and more viscerally exciting going on right now, we haven't seen it.
Personal Bias: I was already a fan of Refused and especially The Shape of Punk to Come, but I was so inspired by this show in a way that rarely happens because these guys were not holding back, and they had something important to convey, and they did so with power, humor and intelligence.
Random Detail: Ran into Tyler Breuer of the Knew, Cole Rudy of Varlet, Mike Marchant of Widowers and Geoff Brent of Abracastabya at the show.
By the Way: This was the best crowd I've seen at a show in Denver in years. Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity.
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