Friday, 12 December 2014

Live Review: Useless ID 20th Anniversary Show @ The Barby, Tel Aviv [4th December 2014]

Useless ID (+ guests)

Man Alive

Kids Insane

Tonight is a special night. This massive show at Tel Aviv's major rock concert venue, The Barby, is the setting for the celebration of Useless ID's 20 years of existence in one way or another. It is expecting to be an absolutely massive turn out. As I walk into the venue, I notice that they've opened a whole section of the venue with an extra bar which is normally curtained off. Is it really expected to overflow tonight?

Kids Insane

Shows in Israel have a reputation for never starting on time. If an event says it starts at 21:00, it's most likely to start at around 22:00 or later. Tonight, however, hardcore freedom fighters Kids Insane were scheduled to be on by 21:00 and they decide to go on almost a little bit prematurely. Didn't matter to me. I got there in perfect amount of time to say hi to the guys before they scuttled on stage. It was a bit too early for other gig goers, as there was only a splattering of people there, including a handful of people who actually know the band, some curious onlookers and a few already wankered who just want to push-mosh.
Already being a fan of the band, I discarded my writing duties and started dancing from the get go with first song Don't Need This from their All Over album. The song is a great starter to the set and a song that I personally relate to. They speak about the self-righteousness of the religious and how someone non-religious can feel belittled. The cry of "I'M ONLY FUCKING HUMAN!" is heavily poignant and has me (and possibly others) staring up at the ceiling and screaming it with all the breath I could muster.
The band then power through the rest of their set with frantic energy and buckets of sweat. Singer Corey knows how to work a crowd and is not put off when more arrive. If anything, it makes him better! He's running around from side to side, shoving the mic into the crowd, standing on monitors and just generally OWNING THE STAGE! I find it hard to actually hear his voice from time to time tonight. I don't think it bothered many others; those who know the words were singing themselves, anyway. Regular crowd pleasers Same Shit, Different Scene and Story of a Lonely Street have both fans and those familiar with the videos going crazy and singing along. Newer tracks from the Frustrated EP, such as Frustrated, Poisoned and tonight's set closer 28/12/2012, receive a more mixed reception....but give 'em time. I loved the fact I was able to get my "groove on" to their classics such as Fix It and Spread It All Over tonight. KI never really seem to disappoint. They have that obvious Black Flag influence in their performances despite having a more early Comeback Kid sound and even a hint of Fugazi in places. It all works fabulously, as their growing success in Europe and the UK is proving.
Their next show is what they're calling a "Pop Up Shop/Exhibition/Live Music" show at Koro on 25th December. So a christmas party, I guess! the show will feature artwork by Alon Bonder (dunno), Djing by Mad Appel (dunno), an acoustic set by HaAchim Zabari (The Zabari Brothers - mentalists!) and, of course, full set by Kids Insane.

Man Alive

After a bit of a natter with some friends and some new acquaintances, including a German volunteer and an American on a Masa program, I decide to get back to work for the next act. I go up to the balcony, stage left, and find a spot to rest my notepad and with a perfect view of both the stage and the crowd. As Man Alive, these faces that I don't recognise, arrive on stage, there is a warm welcome from the crowd. Like Useless ID, Man Alive have been around for quite some time and, due to their support from Useless ID, have toured fairly extensively in the past. In recent years, they have been fairly quiet gig-wise and do the odd local show here and there.
They start off with Laugh Along from their last album that came out last year, A Light Goes On. It's a nice happy track that gets some of the crowd joining in on the Mumford and Sons style "Hey" parts. As nice as this song is and as well as they are playing it, first impression is that they seem pretty static. Maybe they're just warming up. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.  

Photo by Useless ID

As the set goes on, the band plays a good amount of the newer material such as titular track sing-along A Light Goes On, the catchy Over and Done (possibly my favourite off the record), the sway-inducing A Can And A String and the emotional but still heavy hitting From The Inside. The new material still gets a great reaction from the crowd as much as older tracks such as Give Me A Sign and the fast paced Catch Phrases, Slogans and Chants. There are times when some of the girls near me on the balcony are having a bit of a boogie and people in the "pit" were jumping about push-pitting, so the music itself is definitely having the desired effect tonight. There were some songs that made me want to stage dive from the balcony where I was....I then decided against it. 
The previously mentioned "static performance" did not really improve. The band had some interaction with the crowd, giving their thanks to Useless for all their help over the years, but I just didn't get that feeling they were as into the show as the crowd was.  

Useless ID

And now to the birthday boys!! Useless ID are greeted by fans with an almost "heroes' welcome". The band arrive on stage to the chantings of "USELESS! USELESS!" This could have been for the band or they could have been pissed off about something. Haha.... Probably not that. All 4 members of the band, Yotam (vocals/bass), Ishay (guitar/backing), Guy (guitar/backing) and Gideon (drums) all seem ready and raring to go. Yotam's looking the most "punk" that I've seen him in a while, wearing a sleeveless denim jacket with band patches such as 7 Seconds and other smaller ones. (I couldn't make out what they were from where I stood). 
By now, the Barby was utterly full to the brim. Everything is frantic and energetic from the get go as the band begin their part of the evening with classic track State of Fear. The crowd are squashed in like sardines in a can, but still manage to jump about, start the odd circle here and there and sing along. Not only does the song have catchy "woah oh oh" parts that stick in your head until you die, the "I don't want to be a part of it anyway" line of the chorus rings true to so many of the people here tonight who never were/do not want to be associated with the army and do not agree with war. This is definitely one of their best ever songs, so I can't help but feel that playing this first was "blowing their load" too early.
As tonight celebrates the band's 20 years of existence, they have made sure to pack tonight's setlist with as many songs from their back catalogue as possible, up to and including last album Symptoms. Almost every song they play tonight has people singing along. Symptom's main hit song Before It Kills has all band members properly rocking out. Yotam stands legs wide apart, attacking the bass like it ate his last Oreo. (I wanted to say "Rolo", but that's a very British reference so I opted for something more international). As Ishay frantically headbangs like a bobble head on a bumpy road, Guy flails around the stage, whipping his curly locks back and forth, strumming along like his life depended on it. Drummer Gideon is holding it all together perfectly, spinning his sticks whenever possible....again! Show-off or showman? Who cares?! A blonde wig/hair extensions suddenly flies onto the stage. Not entirely sure where that came from or why it was thrown but it added to the craziness of the performance. The pop punk classic Turn Up The Stereo has everyone jumping, singing and clapping along as soon as the easily recognisable riff kicked in. Girls standing near me scream in excitement...I guess Useless ID are their One Direction. This is one of those songs that even pop punk fans around must know, due to the music video having had a bit of airplay back in the day. Songs like Manic Depression and At Least I Tried created stage diving and push pits galore. Because their albums vary in style, when watching Useless ID live, you hear elements of Ataris style emo pop punk and the more aggressive fast paced vibes of Rise Against. Guy and Ishay's backing vocals are not always clear in most songs, but that does not seem to put off the crowd. 
Photo by David Rosen 

Tonight, we have a couple of guests joining the band on the stage. Corey from Kids Insane returns to sing on probably the oldest and most hardcore song in the set, Is It Right. Corey has taken a bit of time to relax and gain his breath back since his set and is on total form; roaming about the stage, standing on monitors and energetically singing directly to the crowd. Another guest further into the set is Israeli legend Rami Fortis. I'm starting to get to know a bit more about him, especially since this performance. He is considered a forefather of Israeli punk rock/new wave. Tonight, the band back him up on his classics Hatul HaMifletzet (The Monster Cat??) and Red MeAl Masach HaTelevizia Sheli (Get Off Of My TV Screen). I hadn't heard these songs before and was incredibly impressed by how catchy they were and really enjoyed seeing the crowd members who knew the songs singing and dancing along. Both sides must be feeling honoured; Fortis for being invited to perform his own songs with them and the band themselves for the fact that he agreed and has graced them with his presence (or the other way round, maybe?) There is a chant going around; "FORTIS MESHUGGAH" (Fortis is crazy). This is incredibly apt as he is an absolute nutter on stage. Looking a bit like Phil Collins if he was a physics professor, Fortis dances about on stage like a rhythmless drunk uncle at a wedding. He is incredibly fun to watch. His vocals were not always audible but everything else made up for it. 
The pace softens down a little as the band comes off stage, leaving only Yotam for an acoustic set. Yotam plays a couple of songs including Blood Pressure. He's having to almost instruct the crowd NOT to sing certain parts yet. It's another great song from the band's repertoire that people can't help but sing along to. Yotam shows off his singing prowess more by holding a long note on "TAKE, TAKE, TAAAAAAAKE". This gets a well deserved cheer and applause from the entire venue. When the band returns to the stage, they play a few more classics before inviting Fortis back on to help them out with covering Blitzkrieg Bop. A punk show isn't a punk show until everyone is going "Hey Ho! Let's Go!" Every time a band does this, it's as if to say "This is why we do this." 
Useless ID's whole performance tonight was compelling. There may have been the odd bum note and there was an incident where the floor tom fell over, which was easily rectified, but everyone soldiered on and they gave the people what they wanted. The sad thing is....what happens now? Yotam is off to try and make it in the states as a solo artist. This could leave them to having just a fewer shows throughout the year than previously, but I hope that the band will still go to the states to tour and that Yotam will make his way back here from time to time to tour with them. 

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