Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Used at the Kentish Town Forum

I was driving home last night and The Taste Of Ink came on the radio. It's not the kind of song that gets played all that often so I turned it up and immediately felt that happy nostalgia you only get from listening to an old song by a band you have loved for many years.

Then I felt a pang of guilt. I went to see The Used a couple of weeks back, started writing a post about it a few days later, got distracted and never finished it. In my last post I said that I would try to return to my former consistent blogging ways this year and so far I have failed. Spectacularly.

So let's go back a couple of weeks and pick up where I left off....

I'll take any opportunity I can to see The Used. I've seen them numerous times over the years and written about a few of them here. When this tour was announced it was a bit special though. The band decided to celebrate their 15th anniversary (how the heck have 15 years flown by?!) by touring their first two albums.

Last week I had the privilege of seeing them at the Forum not once but twice. Monday was their self-titled album (2002) and Wednesday was In Love and Death (2004). When you've seen the same band a lot of times it's good to see something a little different and this was one of those rare opportunities to see two incredible albums played in their entirety, including those album tracks that never get played life. ( has this tour down as the first time they have played songs like Let It Bleed, Cut Up Angels, Greener With the Scenery and Poetic Tragedy, as opposed to the 500+ times they've performed The Taste of Ink.)

But let's start at the beginning, as we all know that I like to discuss pre-gig dinner. Monday's was at Hache, which I have raved about several times before, and Wednesday was at Southern Joe's a BBQ joint in Kentish Town, which surprisingly had a fantastic Mexican vegan dish on the specials menu!

I've mentioned before how The Used's live shows have changed over the years. The tone was once set by Bert McCracken's unpredictable moods but these days (presumably due to a combination of sobriety and maturity) you tend to know what to expect. Not that this makes things any less enjoyable of course. I actually feel a strange sort of maternal pride at how far Bert's come (a bizarre emotion to have towards someone who is a couple of years older than you!).

Bert's battled a lot of demons in his time – from substance abuse and homelessness to the death of his former girlfriend – and these first two albums are a product of some of that pain. This is so often the way; the hardest times in life result in the greatest creativity. But I hope for Bert that performing these albums, celebrating 15 years of the Used and I believe four of sobriety, is a cathartic experience.

That's not to say he's no longer lacking in emotion, it's just that these days the band are more likely to express opinions on the state of society than heartache. Songs like Revolution, Generation Throwaway, and Force Without Violence from 2014's Imaginery Enemy are prime examples of this. The old mischievous Bert hasn't gone though. After insisting the crowd sing him happy birthday and being presented with a cake, he blew out the candles and subsequently hurled it into the chaos.

For once there is no need for me to discuss set lists; the only addition to the original albums was the inclusion of Pretty Handsome Awkward as an encore after In Love and Death.

Previously when I've seen bands perform entire albums they tend to open with a handful of other songs, but The Used got straight into it. I respected this purist approach and I'm not ashamed to admit I rather like being home with a cuppa by 11pm. Not sure if I'm growing up or growing old, but at least we're doing it together.
© Rock & Runway

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