Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Used at Koko – bourbon, burgers and Bert McCracken

There are a few bands that you inevitably buy tickets for, no matter how busy your schedule is or what other events might be causing you to hemorrhage cash that month, and for me The Used is one of them. If Bert McCracken's in town, you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to be there too.

Last Thursday The Used played Koko and having seen them plenty of times before, I'll admit the first question on all of our minds was, where should we have our pre-gig dinner? Typically if I'm in Camden I'm drawn to Hache, like a ravenous moth to a delicious flame. It's a gourmet burger place a stone's throw from the tube station (gourmet in the good sense, not the pretentious kind of place that thinks that four chips constitutes a portion). The food is incredible for carnivores and herbivores alike and if it's been a few months I start to get cravings.

Recently, however, we've been trying to branch out, so my BBQ loving BFF suggested we try The Blues Kitchen, which turned out to be a pretty good call. It has the distinctly Southern American vibe that the name suggests, live music later in the evening, and over 100 types of bourbon.

The Blues Kitchen – bourbon anyone?!

The food was good and the drinks selection even better, although I did reel in horror while weighing up the bourbon choice, when our waitress said, "don't worry, by the time you've got a mixer in it you won't taste the difference anyway!" Really? Really?! Anyway the bourbon was great, my creole bean burger was delicious and we were soon on our way to Koko.

Last time I saw The Used at Scala I think the two points I made very clearly were a) how much I love this band and b) how fantastic and engaging Bert is (you can read about that night here), and this show was much the same. The more you see a band the harder it is to write about them, especially if they consistently put on a good show, and you find yourself tempted to write a three word review: It Was Awesome. But there's always a twist to the tale and, just when I think The Used can't make me love them anymore, they incorporated New Noise into Maybe Memories to kick things off. And we all know how much I love me some Refused.

The fourteen-song set then consisted of almost exactly what you would expect: Take It Away, The Bird and the Worm, I Caught Fire, Listening, The Taste of Ink, All That I've Got, Cry, Revolution, The Best Of Me, Blood On My Hands and Pretty Handsome Awkward. Fairly short and sweet but pretty darn perfect and a nice showcase of over a decade of hard work.

As I've said before, I'm a fan of The Used's sound from the early days of their self-titled album right up to last year's release, Imaginary Enemy. I think it's the sign of a great band when the setlist can span the years seamlessly and, despite a variety of ages in the crowd, each song gets an (almost) identical reaction. The only glaring omission appears to be 2012's Vulnerable, which for some reason is notably absent from recent shows. I'd like to see the raw energy of Hands and Faces live but I have a sneaking suspicion it won't happen any time soon.

The night concluded with an acoustic performance of On My Own performed from the balcony then back onto the stage for A Box Full Of Sharp Objects with a bit of Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine thrown into the intro and outro for good measure. What can I say? A night that starts with bourbon and ends with Bert McCracken was always going to be a good one.

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