In a performance filled literally with blood, spit and tears, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes proved tonight at The Rainbow in Birmingham that that music still matters.
With the Sunday sunshine still filtering through the skylights of the back room at The Rainbow, Loom kicked things off with a dose of punk attitude, and a tumbling and climbing demonstration from front man Tarik Badwan. He gamboled off the stage and through what should have been the pit before seemingly attempting to garrote both the early crowd and himself with the cord of his mic, but sadly there were few takers willing to get involved. The set highlight was latest single ‘Hate’, released last week on the label Tarik shares with his brother, Raft Records.
I’d been waiting for a while to catch Milk Teeth live, having noticed them through the tour photography of Martyna Wisniewska, and let’s say I wasn’t disappointed. Their full on attitude and energy gave an edge to their nineties-esque grunge that went down well with the whole crowd, not just the young fans that had clearly come to support them. Vocals came courtesy of guitarist Josh and bass player Becky, but it was Olly on drums that held my attention. His venting of what appeared to be a barely contained maniacal rage through the smashing of his kit and shrieking of lyrics summed up brilliantly the tone of their set. Pace changes throughout the set worked well, contrasting bouncier tracks such as ‘Vitamins’ with down tempo songs like ‘Swear Jar’ and ‘Trampoline’. There are a number of young bands riding the wave of the nineties sound resurgence at the moment, but for me Milk Teeth could certainly be one to keep an eye on.
Whether it was due to punk attitude, technical difficulties or just finishing a FaceTime call with his seven month old daughter Frank kept the crowd at the Rainbow waiting an additional fifteen minutes for his return to live music, but whatever the reason it only served to build anticipation, and my God it was worth the wait!
As he strode onto the stage, Frank immediately demonstrated his magnetic ability to hold a crowd in his grasp through his demand that they fill the “horseshoe of doom” that had been left in front of the stage, he then exploited one of the few venues in Birmingham that will still offer a non-barrier show by letting everyone there know that “our stage is your stage”, before tearing into the evening’s first airing of ‘Loss’.
Between tracks we were provided with a view into some of the experiences and emotions that drew Frank out of his hiatus and shaped the music of the Rattlesnakes. Death, loss, self-doubt, trust, suicide bombing — we’re talking some dark stuff, which is why the musical outpouring and evident catharsis for Frank and the audience seemed to feel so real. Seeing Frank on his knees, unable to finish the lyrics to ‘Beautiful Death’ was an unbelievably intense moment of realisation for me that music is still so much more than just a money-spinner for corporations that regurgitate talent show cookie-cutter meaningless musak.
Neither the illness that guitarist Dean was blamed for spreading through the band via tongue kissing, nor the technical issues such as un-taped mics and broken guitar strings were able to hamper the evening in any way.
We were also told that at 31, Frank was hurting from his over-zealous DIY scheduling of a punk rock tour that didn’t include a day off, though as he dove off a speaker stack at least as high as the roof supports into the crowd you would never have known.
The almost Jekyll and Hyde transformation between the Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes that viciously vent their souls during songs and the charismatic characters that share amusing anecdotes and genuinely moving moments of insight into some of the pain that has been poured into their music is one that is hard to put into words, but is ultimately one of the reasons why tonight was such a triumph.
I felt privileged to have seen these guys in such an intimate setting before they inevitable upgrade to much larger venues. Welcome back Frank.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes Setlist:
Devil Inside Me
I Hate You
Review: Steve Kilmister
Photographs: Andy Watson