Sick Of It All @ The Talking Heads, Southampton

 28th January 2015
Review by Tim Bolitho-Jones

SOIANew York legends Sick Of It All have never gone on hiatus. They’ve never staged a high profile comeback tour or spent months squabbling in the press and their line-up has been relatively stable for years.

They’re practically the very definition of a hardworking, salt of the earth band and a cast iron inspiration for every hardcore act out there. But the real reason they’ve endured this long is because they make every gig a party and tonight is no exception.

And a good thing too, because the tattooed, pierced and mohawked audience filling the Talking Heads remains pretty sedate for the first few hours. The support bands make some valiant efforts to bring life into the room, but it’s not until the first moments of ‘Good Looking Out’ that the adrenaline really kicks in.

Openers Lucky One Dies First make a good stab at it with twenty minutes of fast paced punk rock.
Their songs are short, vicious bursts of bratty anger and all three members look like they’re having the time of their lives, even playing to a half empty venue.

Despite the sparse crowd, the bass player still manages to find enough people to go crowd surfing at the end and for a moment, there’s a real sense their manic energy might carry over to the next band.

Unfortunately though, local boys Grove Street Families have a hard time rousing the punters out of their midweek lethargy.
They play a groove and breakdown heavy version of hardcore with lyrics about drug dealers and street violence, but as their main source of inspiration is one of the Grand Theft Auto games (they’re named after a fictional gang), there’s a tongue-in-cheek aspect that most of their contemporaries don’t have.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with San Andreas though, their sense of humour isn’t immediately apparent and they instead come across like a group of posturing tough guys obsessed with a road. It’s a real shame because they’re a great band and their ‘San Fierro EP’ is loads of fun, the audience just wasn’t on side.

CB6 and their questionable mustache core face a similar lack of enthusiasm. The audience sip their pints, applaud politely and chat with their friends while waiting for the headliners, but only a few diehards get down and swing their fists.
They’ve got a few decent riffs, but they also sound like a dozen other bands and are just too generic to stand out. By the time they finish it’s hard to shake the feeling that getting three unknown acts onstage in one night was a bit much.

Apathy however is not a problem Sick Of It All face and the exact moment they start playing, the pit opens and the Talking Heads comes to life faster than Mia Wallace after a syringe through the breastbone. ‘Clobberin’ Time’ and ‘Uprising Nation’ both appear early on and despite the aggressive nature of the music, the atmosphere remains upbeat and positive. Lou Koller grins from ear to ear as he passes the mic to his fans, makes friendly digs at his crew between songs and does a great job in keeping the mood light and easy.

There’s a wealth of newer material but as always, it’s the old favourites that get the biggest response. The ever reliable ‘Step Down’ turns into a stage diving sing-along, while ‘Just Look Around’ is as fierce now as it was in 1992. ‘Machete’ sees one especially enthusiastic bloke charging all the way from the bar to the front of the stage, while the closing duo of ‘Scratch The Surface’ and ‘Us vs Them’ bring things to a predictably raucous finish.

It wasn’t the most over the top hardcore gig in history and whether that was because of unfamiliarity with the newer bands, or just that Sick Of It All’s fans are a bit more long in the tooth now, business really picked up at the end. They look like a band who got into a van to go on tour and thirty years later still haven’t gone home, but couldn’t play a bad gig if they tried.

Setlist
  1. Good Lookin’ Out
  2. Sound the Alarm
  3. Clobberin’ Time
  4. Uprising Nation
  5. Injustice System
  6. My Life
  7. Death or Jail
  8. Busted
  9. Sanctuary
  10. Take the Night Off
  11. DNC
  12. Machete
  13. Get Bronx
  14. Step Down
  15. Rat Pack
  16. Outgunned
  17. Just Look Around
  18. World Full of Hate
  19. Road Less Traveled
  20. Scratch the Surface
  21. Us vs. Them
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