After a 14-year hiatus (twice as long as they were together) Refused is back playing a smattering of shows around the world. They’re not promising any new material, let alone a new record, but performances off their swan song classic The Shape of Punk To Come is brand new to the majority of the band’s fans today, who have never seen them play live.
On a Sunday evening in mid-town New York City at a tri-level club a low hum begins and slowly gets louder over the course of 15 minutes, finally giving way to the Refused bursting out and ready to rock. It’s immediately apparent how at ease these guys are with the stage. Their music, their energy and the golden silhouettes often given to them by their on-stage lighting gives them an aurally and visually explosive performance through and through. As expected, their set largely culled the crazed genius of 1998’s The Shape of Punk To Come, bringing 9 out of its 12 songs to their loving fans (who by the way, landed a hell of a lot more on the hipster side than the punk rock/hardcore side). Singer Dennis Lyxzen talked a good deal about what hardcore means to them and how their lyrics from 14+ years ago were so naïve and angry, yet today mean more to them than ever.
The highlights of the show came toward the end when Dennis brought out Sick of it All vocalist Lou Koller to perform a great cover of SOIA’s Injustice System. And the absolute apex of Refused’s performance was the stadium-worthy sounds of “New Noise”, which set fans off like no other tune that evening.
As Dennis related to the audience, the band was playing record stores and living rooms back when they broke up and to come back to two back-to-back sold out nights at a 3,000 capacity venue was quite surreal for them. Here’s to hoping it won’t be another 14 years before these self-proclaimed “hicks from the middle of nowhere in Northern Sweden” come back to play. And hey, while we’re at it, we can always hope for some new music too.