Alkaline Trio was at Portsmouth Pyramids as part of their 15-year anniversary tour. And their longevity showed.
The band's reputation and their music go before them and speak for them too. But you still don't expect what you get with Alkaline Trio: supreme musicianship, yes you expect this; tight together - after 15 years, ditto. This tight - nope - even after 15 years you wouldn't assume this level of pure musical and emotional symmetry. But we're still not on the real point: the thing about Alkaline Trio is that their power remains raw, pent up, sincere and meaningful. Age has not diluted their inner play and time has not withered* their ferocious belief and commitment to their music. Alkaline Trio stunned me.
They opened strong with their characteristic rhythmic beats chopping and shuddering - an underlying threat in the music over which is heard the inherent power of the two male vocals - Matt and Dan exude unchallenged assertion in their voices which are also soft and melodic.
Alkaline Trio teems with agitation - Matt, Dan and Derek prickle with an anarchic sentiment, which is seen in the intense concentration and belief in their music. We heard this as the band ripped through their set - and understood it in their lyrics, which echo with the stark brutality of these lines (from "This could be love."): "Step one, slit my throat; step two play in my blood ..."
Despite all this, Alkaline Trio together is smooth as smooth can be ... this band must have not only played together but also been subsumed by music together for years.
With the line up of drums and two guitars, Alkaline Trio’s sound is inevitably – pleasingly - heavily rhythm driven - but it is the release of pent up emotion and sincerity through the beat and balanced dual lead male vocals which transports the audience at an Alkaline Trio gig. Their intensity is felt through every fibre in their bodies and they attack their numbers, giving themselves out and in this they truly embrace life, breathe it in and spit it out for us the audience to absorb.
Alkaline Trio’s mutual accord is a joy to witness and hear - a sign of their cohesion is how Matt and Dan naturally, companionably share the front.
"Are you guys having fun cos I'm having fun?"
As the set moved into acoustic mode, Dan sang “I did say I loved you way too soon ... " with a beauty and gentleness heard in "This could be love" (our song of the day on 2nd May HERE) saying after “... sorry I get a little choked up when I sing that...”
"Clavicle" was loved and the acoustic renditions retained strength and power, while also revealing a deep artistic contentment and ‘at- one-ness” in each of Matt, Dan and Derek and within the band itself.
Near the end of the set, Dan thanked everyone at the Pyramids including their Tour Manager, Andy - you get the impression that these are nice sincere guys.
Returning to the stage for a 3-song encore, Alkaline Trio smashed it while body after body was hauled from the surf into the hands of the waiting security; bringing this great gig to an end with Dan’s goodbye: " … give it up for yourselves United Kingdom we love you."
*Credit William Shakespeare (A & C)