Review by Sophie Maughan and photos by Russ Tierney
The first surprise (albeit a pleasant one) of the night was the fact that the gig itself had been bumped from Academy 2 to the main room. It would be up to rising five-piece The Dead Betas to kick things off. Hailing from Devon and describing themselves as “The second best band that nobody’s heard of!” (including myself), it’s a synth heavy affair with plenty of beefed up punk riffery. And a fair amount of swag courtesy of frontman Tobias Monsters. The venue is still only three quarters full but the crowd already gathered are moderately receptive. Tracks ‘The Ego Song’ and ‘Predator’ (dedicated to a persistent fan, gender unknown) are the highlights of the evening and go down a storm. Monsters proceeds to throw some shapes and indulges in a bit of hip rolling. It is slightly weird (bordering on uncomfortable) to watch but he redeems himself almost immediately with the following song which is about bullying at school. The lyrics are heartfelt and spat with pure vitriol and it’s the first time during the set that the band seems to connect on an emotional level with the largely pubescent audience in front of them. It is clearly a subject close to their hearts and undoubtedly many more here tonight. At times, it has to be said that these guys tread a fine line between confidence and downright arrogance. But there really is some great material here. Definitely one to watch.
With the opening band exiting stage left after forty five minutes, a quick look at the ol’ watch would suggest that perhaps, another act would be entertaining us before the main event. Enter Brum natives Taking Hayley. The quartet is decked out in the obligatory skinnies and waistcoats, and engages the crowd from right off the bat. We are talking slick, well executed riffs with bouncy “C’mon! C’mon!” anthemic choruses and ridiculously catchy pop punk hooks. Photogenic lead vocalist Alistair Keenan has many a young lady swooning and at one point, you can almost smell the hormones bouncing off the sweating walls. There is an unexpected comedic moment when after pronouncing “We’re gonna take this to the next level!” Keenan promptly trips over the mic cables and almost stacks. But not even that can prevent an almost venue wide arm swaying when they drop their cover of Labrinth’s ‘Earthquake’. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea (mine included) but there’s no denying the fact that these guys know how to work a crowd and are worthy of their place on the bill tonight.
And so ladies and gents, we come to the main event. It’s been four years since Mindless Self Indulgence delighted both the press and many a fan with their anarchic anthems of industrial/punked up hip-hopping OTT mentalness. Surprisingly, tonight is not sold-out. But the snaking queue outside the O2 and the plethora of Mohawks on display is a testament to the excitement which this band can incite after such a lengthy hiatus. By 9.13pm, the deafening chants of “MSI! MSI! MSI!” are ringing out. You can literally taste the anticipation which is fizzing away like a heavily shook up bottle of plonk. Looking down at floor briefly, I realise that my own feet are also shuffling about impatiently. “I’m so excited I don’t know what to do with myself – maybe I’ll just clutch my breasts” exclaims a teenaged female fan stood next to me. Less than five minutes later, the blinding neon lights are flashing and as the familiar strains of God Save The Queen fill the air, the venue goes suitably batshit crazy as the band take to the stage on by one. And with guitarist Steve Righ?‘s statement of “We are gonna fuck this shit UP”, it’s not so much of an announcement but a battle cry. What is witnessed next is nothing short of a frenzy as the insanely brilliant (and sharply dressed) Jimmy Urine stomps and stalks the stage during rousing set opener ‘Shut Me Up’. He clambers up on to Kitty’s drum riser and almost hits the ceiling on the jump off. Lyn-Z does her trademark lean back move whilst riffing the bejesus out of her bass which resonates across a packed Academy. Eardrums are perforated. Bodies and beers are flying all over the shop. It is bold, unashamedly brash and f*cking brilliant. The band is obviously delighted to be here and it radiates through their technicolour sound. Jimmy’s between song banter is beyond offensive. He unleashes a tirade of foul mouthed abuse on numerous occasions, informing a small number of fans in the front row that they are in need of plastic surgery. He also demands some make-up at one point, insisting “You’re all too ugly not to have some!” The appropriate cosmetics are produced and the vocalist smears it all over his face. We are also treated to an impromptu strip show as Jimmy tears off his suit revealing a terribly camp looking cropped net vest. Humour and theatrics aside, there is no denying that this is a band at the top of their game in a live capacity. The musicianship is well honed with every single member nailing it on every single song. And what a set list it is. With ‘Stupid MF’, ‘Animal’, ‘1989’, ‘Never Wanted to Dance’ and the utterly fantastic ‘Cocaine and Toupees’ all fired off in quick succession during the first half hour, it’s difficult to imagine it getting any better. But holy Jesus does it ever! All the bases are covered with material from You’ll Rebel To Anything, If and debut opus Tighter which got a welcome re-release in 2011. We are sternly advised that we cannot “half ass” and that “only full ass on this next song” will suffice. ‘Bitches’ is the song in question and a stomping choice for the set closer. It is also the cue for the irrepressible Jimmy to illustrate the meaning of full ass in a literal sense. Yes, he moons the entire crowd.
It is fast approaching 10:30 and MSI briefly leave the stage and their adoring followers but swiftly return following hysterical shrieks for an encore. Jimmy and Steve indulge in some vocal interplay and invite the gathered masses to join them in a series of hilarious chants. “Death to MSI!” and “Steve is a gorgeous man” being two of the most grin inducing. ‘Straight to Video’ sounds absolutely HUGE and might just be the standout moment of the entire performance. Once more, the lyrics are absolutely bellowed back at the band word for word. A truly bizarre acapella version of Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’ is thrown into the mix for good measure, although sadly, it appears to be lost on a few of the younger fans in attendance. Security is getting restless and the house lights are switched on but the show ain’t over yet. Steve selects some lucky fans to come join him and Jimmy onstage but they each have to prove that they have talent. He insults both of the girls chosen in turn. One girl has her bag emptied whilst tap dancing and the other is referred to as a beached whale. The audience are invited to suggest what “act” they should perform. The insistent cries of “GANGNAM STYLE!” are regrettably ignored by the two guys pulled up and you can see the sheer horror in the eyes of the security personnel as they climb the speakers and a gleeful “Jump! Jump! Jump!” chant ensues. It is utter chaos and a fitting end to a thoroughly entertaining and incredibly energetic show. We all head out into the chilly October night with ringing ears but we want more. Much more. Bring on the new album MSI! We are ready!
And you can see more shots from the show here: