Friday, 11 July 2014

The Used at Scala

There are many things that you should be doing 48 hours before you move house (packing, panicking...), and going to a gig probably isn't one of them. But this wasn't any old gig, it was The Used at Scala, and the tickets had been purchased months before we knew that the sale of our house would drag on for so darn long....

Before I get to the show, I'm going to admit that my last few write-ups have been a tad soppy and full of unadulterated praise (see Taking Back Sunday and Bayside for proof). I'd like to say that this particular trend is over (writing about bad shows is actually easier than good ones) but, along with the aforementioned, The Used make up my holy trinity – the final piece in the puzzle of a long time love affair that I really can't play down.

So there I was, a million miles away from the stress of preparing to move house (or so it felt), happy to have escaped the nightmare of knowing that 80 percent of my life was packed up into boxes, or worse, that the remaining 20 percent was yet to be dealt with. Beers had been drunk, dinner had been eaten, and we had grabbed that elusive spot on Scala's balcony that nobody else seems to know about – perfect view, queue-less bar just behind, what's not to love?!

Formed in 2001, The Used hail from Utah and, drummer aside, they have retained the same lineup ever since. They are a fantastic live band and front man Bert McCracken is... well, he's Bert. Unique, charismatic and unpredictable, with a voice to match. I've seen him at previous shows in various moods ranging from completely crazy to kind of grumpy – but tonight he was at his finest; funny, engaging and extolling the virtues of sobriety.

The Used released their self-titled debut album 12 years ago and subsequently followed it with five more, the most recent being Imaginary Enemy, released in April. With each album their sound has evolved; from the post-hardcore, rawness of their first record and the follow-up In Love and Death, to the slickly produced Lies For The Liars, via a range of influences on Artwork and Vulnerable, culminating in the politically charged anthems on their latest offering.

As their sound has developed, I've witnessed one or two fans fall by the wayside, having decided that the experiments with dub step were quite literally a step too far (listen to Hands and Faces and make up your own mind – I'm definitely in the 'love it' camp). These particular fans wanted The Used to stay the same as in the early days, but that isn't realistic. It's like asking you to wear exactly the same outfit for ten years and not get bored.

Personally I love them as much as I ever did. They have retained what makes them The Used and perhaps I have simply evolved alongside them, but all I know is that I still listen to each of their albums with an (almost) equal passion. I could never put my finger on exactly why the changes have worked, until Bert did it for me, saying "We've always tried to do what isn't cool." Simple but so true. They don't follow the crowd – hell they don't even try to please the crowd – they just keep doing their own thing, and that's an attractive quality in all walks of life.

Kicking off their set with Cry from Imaginary Enemy – yet another example of a song I fell for instantly – they immediately went back in time to Take It Away from In Love and Death, proving effortlessly just how relevant their older material still is. I was transported back to my university days and the memory of the nightclub that played Take It Away every week without fail whilst serving ridiculously cheap drinks. This was followed by The Bird and The Worm off what I lovingly refer to as the 'over produced' Lies For The Liars, then Listening, I Caught Fire, The Taste Of Ink, All That I've Got and Buried Myself Alive.

It was an incredible trip down memory lane. The sound was great, the atmosphere was electric, and once again I was reminded just how passionate and dedicated The Used fans are. We were then brought back to the present by Revolution, the powerful opening track off their latest release. By the time they reached the encore and the always-moving On My Own I felt a bit sad, it was the kind of night that you just don't want to end. However, some uninvited guest vocals from a baritone voice in the crowd hilariously killed the mood, making even Bert laugh.

Finally the band played A Box Full Of Sharp Objects, finishing very appropriately with one of their oldest and most beloved songs. It was perfect. After 12 years and a lot of ups and downs, I'm so glad that I still love The Used. And the girl I was ten years ago, dancing to Take It Away and drinking Jack to forget her troubles, would be pretty damn pleased about that fact too.

Huge thank you goes to Luke Osborne for the fantastic photos, shot on behalf of You can check out more of Luke's work at


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