still shaping...Refused live in Manchester
still shaping…Refused live in Manchester

The Refused

Manchester Academy 1

August 14th 2012

Live Review



There is one thing for sure tonight and that is the Refused are not fucking dead…



They may have reformed after a decade and a half away but in that time their legend came more and more alive.


They may have tried to kill the myth and tried to move on with the Ian Svenoniuos influenced International Noise Conspiracy who played some great gigs in a long haul.


Meanwhile the Refused were pushed away in the spirit of punk rock that likes to keep the past, past.


But a whole raft of bands took their template and ran with it and by the time they announced their reformation in January they found themselves selling out huge venues and being one the festival hits of this summer.


The last time they played Manchester about 40 people watched them whilst this time 2500 turn up and the band that tried to die are greeted like returning heroes and have a sound that has not dated atall and is still setting the agenda.


The room is packed and stupidly hot.


Everyone is twitching and ready to go mental to a band they have never seen play live before but whose records they know. This is no normal band.



Formed in Umea in Sweden in 1991 Refused released a series of albums that redefined hardcore and become the template for so much modern rock music. They grew up with the fervent, firebrand end of hardcore, their front man Denis is vegan straight edge and peers his lyrics with radical politics like some kind of manic kid who should have been living in DC and hanging out round Dischord house.


Musically, though, they were somewhere else. Hooking into the darker end of metal that hangs like a mist round Scandinavia they mashed that in with their firebrand take on hardcore and its political rhetoric. Bringing the rock gave them a darker sound and also room to maneuvre and they quickly understood the power of the dynamic that has become such a big part of their sound.


The bands Shape Of things To Come album was name perfectly and so many modern bands have taken their basic idea of stretching the tension tight, taut, almost ready to snapping point before crashing in with the riff. I


It’s this innovation that has sold out the room tonight. The whole audience in here own a whole pile of downloads of bands that have nicked the Swedish crews ideas and sensibility at some point.


They open with ‘Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull‘ and its full on from this pint. The build up before they hit the stage is great- a long droning note and then band the band appears.


Dennis moves around the stage like a skinny version of Iggy Pop- oozing energy in the sweltering heat. He has one of the great screaming voices and his presence and singing dictates the band dynamics.


The Refused are brilliant at holding this tension and then letting it go in a rush- that’s their trick- the thing that they gave to the world and the songs drop down are fantastic you are left waiting for the intense rush part, the part that causes the moshdown mania and then everyone breathes in when the band drop back, peeling the noise away for imaginative interludes. I


It’s a simple but incredibly effective construction and as they replicate it through the set it becomes more and more effective.


‘Rather be Dead’ sounds triumphant whilst ‘Circle Pit’ is moshing on steroids. The end the set down with the song title that says it all with The Shape Of Punk To Come and no-one can argue with that truism or the songs stunning command of space and energy.


Dennis flails his frame one time and reminds everyone that punk is about thinking for yourself and being creative on your own terms. The band have not lost their hardcore idealistic roots they dedicate a song to Pussy Riot and the sense of empowerment and energising the audience is still there.


This doesn’t feel like a reformation, surely the band were never this tight the first time round. year ago their were wild and exciting young band full of ideas they return like a powerful machine, their paying is celebrates and the power is incredible.


The Refused are not fucking dead…no fucking way…


set list




  1. Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull
  2. The Refused Party Program
  3. Liberation Frequency
  4. Rather Be Dead
  5. Coup d’état
  6. Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine
  7. The Deadly Rhythm
  8. Hook, Line and Sinker
  9. Circle Pit
  10. Refused Are Fucking Dead
  11. Life Support Addiction
  12. The Shape of Punk to Come
  13. Encore:
  14. New Noise
  15. Tannhäuser / Derivè


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Isaw Refused play in a pub basement in Wigan, at 1in the morning, 15 or so years ago. Believe me they were that tight then. It was the most incredible, incendiary gig I have ever seen. Possibly the best gig I’ve ever been to. They were as good last night, as then but the fact that they were relatively unknown at that time, and the circumstances of that gig make it all the more special. Like the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, there are far more people who claim to have seen the band than actually did. Now you can say you saw them too.

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