Napalm Death @ O2 Institute, Birmingham – Saturday 11 March 2023


There is very little, if anything, that can stop Napalm Death. In fact, I’m of the mind that were a nuclear bomb to be dropped – and face it, we’re not too far away from that very possibility at the moment – Napalm Death would most likely survive whatever it is the nuclear weapon yield would rage down upon the rest of us. Fortunately, we need not await such an ordeal to put this hypothesis to the test, because tonight, we have clear evidence that nothing can stop this brutal band of Brummies.

Exhibit A is the absence of bassist Shane Embury, in absentia this evening because of illness. Though the name of the bassist filling in for him escapes me (sorry), this fine fellow has nailed every note of every song in the set down and performs as if his life depended on it. But he has no need to worry because Napalm Death’s crowd welcome him as if he is one of their own.

Exhibit B is vocalist Barney’s Response to a broken ankle, an injury sustained on a Munich stage but weeks ago. An injury such as this, particularly for such an active performer, would mean cancelling not just a gig but perhaps a whole tour. Not so for Barney. For him, it’s either cancel or “look like a twat” while singing from a chair centre stage. And if it’s one thing that Brummies are good at, it’s looking like a twat (joke, obviously). The show will – and does – go on.

“We are Napalm Death from Perry Barr, Walsall, and Sparkhill… Refugees are welcome here… And Tory bastards can fuck off!” Yes, Napalm Death are in town delivering a career-spanning set list of uncompromising brutality targeting all the wrong in the world and those pathetic creatures that perpetuate suffering in the name of ideology, ignorance, and power. While Barney throws himself around in his chair as if he is running around the stage as he usually does, dreadlocked John Cooke, machine drummer Danny Herrera, and the bassist (what is his name?! It’s on the tip of my tongue…) fill the venue with enough grinding might to blast planets into the sun. Yes, it’s business as usual.

There’s very little to write about Napalm Death live. Their discography is flawless. Their performances are, like their discography, flawless. Every time I’ve seen this band, it’s been a lesson in sheer brutal honesty. And tonight is no different. Neither an absent bassist, a broken bone, nor a nuclear bomb can stop this band. Good. With politics across Europe making a distinct shift towards the right, Napalm Death and their fans offer a wall of resistance that is unbreakable. Drop the bomb if you like. We dare you.

Witnessed by Jason Guest

Set List:

  1. Narcissus
  2. Backlash Just Because
  3. Fuck the Factoid
  4. Contagion
  5. Lucid Fairytale
  6. Everyday Pox
  7. Invigorating Clutch
  8. Scum
  9. I Abstain
  10. Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
  11. Amoral
  12. The Kill
  13. Suffer the Children
  14. When All Is Said and Done
  15. Don’t Need It (Bad Brains cover)
  16. Mentally Murdered
  17. Unchallenged Hate
  18. You Suffer
  19. Smash a Single Digit
  20. Dead
  21. Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Dead Kennedys cover)
  22. Siege of Power



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