Manchester Academy One
It has often been said that Minor Threat are the Beatles of hardcore and whilst their impact has been immense and influence never ending it is Rancid, who are not a hardcore band, whose music is far closer to the classic guitar pop of the sixties heroes- not in it's jangling euphoria of the Mersey masters but in its diversity, imagination, humour, soulfulness and inteligence all cranked through a fuzz box.
Rancid come from the gutter, they are the gutter punks looking at the stars, their songs are streaked with the romance and the pain of living on the underbelly of an American city but what makes them stand out is their melodic nous and tonight, as they play a long greatest hits set, it really hits home just how great their songs are.
Like the Beatles it's all about the song, all about the tune and the tight harmonies and switches between the two lead vocals and it's this bllend of voices from Tim Armstrong's gutter punk drawl to Lars Fredereksen's punk rock raucous delivery that defines the band.
Both of them are great singers-Lars is the rabble rouser, whose voice is a call to arms for the packed punk rock mob, he nails chorus after chorus whilst the band's frontman, the enigmatic Tim Armstrong, defines the key to the band with his cracked croak of a voice that slurs through the songs like an introvert Joe Strummer or Shane MacGowan.
Armstrong is a long way away from the macho strut of a rock n roller and it's this undertow of hurt and introspection that gives the band an interesting edge as he drawls his lyrics sideways across the stage through his mic, bouncing around with his battered black guitar cutting a charismatic presence. It's a great contrast to the more gregarious Lars and the pair of them physically resemble their respective rolls in the band with Lars working the old skool, skinhead bovver boy look and Tim, these days resplendent in a big, bushy, black beard and a beanie hat is hidden behind his follicle storm. Armstrong looks more like some kind of post rock band member than a punk rock folk hero which adds to the band's impact.
The band are on fire, it's their twentieth anniversary tour and those two decades have not been wasted with the band honing their craft to perfection. They must be one of the tightest bands on the circuit and the rhythm section is killer, Matt Freeman's bass playing is astonishing and when he strikes out for some lead bass breaks the crowd give him a deserved standing ovation. He also gets to sing a couple of songs and his great bear growl of a voice gives the band yet another dynamic.
As the songs fly past it underlines the depth and spread of styles that the band have mastered from a Ramones style wall of sound pop classic to Clash style anthems to ska soaked switchblade bouncers to all kinds of other styles mixed into their punk rock assault that they make their own. Rancid work in the punk idiom but they twist and turn their music with so many ideas that they are a long way ahead of most of their contemporaries.
The greatest punk rock band operating on the planet right now Rancid have the back story, the street roots, the sense of history, the songwriting skill and the understanding of the raucous power of punk itself to make a mastery of the form and as they blast through their set tonight with 2500 fans they are at the heart of a celebration of a form of music that is routinely ignored by the mainstream but remains a powerhouse and valid form.