For years Axis Of were one of the most sought after performers if you were a promoter booking a gig or festival line-up across the country. Their ability to consistently deliver intense but euphoric live performances marked them out from their peers. But having been gone for 6 years, would there be an appetite for their return and would their live show live up to their historically high standards.
With a typically heavyweight reputation, the card for the evening was suitably stacked for the occasion. The relative fresh faces of Big Daisy have the responsibility for getting the show on the road and they deliver. Kicking off with their latest release, ‘Without Dreams’ is a bold statement of intent. Arguably their best release to date but has the desired effect of ensnaring those early punters to venture down the front.
Ciara’s vocal performance hits all the right notes and stand out on mid set number ‘From a Friend’. Their set is an interesting mix of grunge inspired indie with a few more poppy numbers thrown in for good measure. Closer ‘Go Outside’ is a powerful end for a band with lots of potential.
When you have Brand New Friend on the bill, you expect an abundance of energy. Tonight’s set feels a little different than normal. The band recently finished recording their second album and the setlist is all new material bar one (Plastic Flowers). The opening track christened as ‘Dino’ on the setlist is the standout of the new material while ‘Talk It Out’ marks out a moment for Lauren to shine and take the spotlight. The song writing prowess across the family flows through to closer ‘Lucky’ written by Logan Johnson and once audiences are more familiar with the material, will likely be a key part of their performances going forward.
Early indications suggest the raw energy from earlier releases has been toned down and replaced with a much more nuanced and mature sound. This is mimicked by the bands onstage movements with the usually boisterous Taylor, more subdued bar some end of set monitor standing. It is a solid performance tonight and while it is always a thrill to hear new material (and we can’t wait to hear the new album), a few more of the old classics given the occasion wouldn’t have gone amiss.
I was in attendance in the same venue as Axis Of signed off for six years so tonight feels like we’ve come full circle. As the lights dim and Axis Of take to the stage, the crowd seems to swell and the anticipation is palpable. It all kicks off with the effervescent chaos and attitude of ‘Wetsuit’ that was a key part in the success of their second album, the Mid Brae Inn. Their return was well documented through ‘Beach Light’ and its hopefulness is a suitable follow up to the opener.
The band do a masterful job of juggling the new material and the classics which their old friends, family and fans have come for. The sprinkling of new tracks (‘Little Squamish’, ‘Blackcomber’, ‘San Juan Renfrew’ and ‘Millar’s Ridge’) don’t feel out of place against the old material and retain the typical swagger and power that we’ve come to expect from the North Coast outfit.
Fans who followed the band from the beginning always had a soft spot for ‘Port Na Spaniagh’ and once the spiky riffs hit, the venue erupts. Buoyed by the reaction of their audience, it’s an authoritative rendition of a classic and there are plenty of wry grins as they deliver those unforgettable lyrics; “My girlfriend is the hardest man in Belfast, she eats iron filings for breakfast”.
The encore is the sweet spot of the performance and easily transports us back to the joy and energy of so many shows that typified the music scene in 2010s. As they hint at breaking into ‘ Cardiel’, a cup of beer hits the ceiling and the mosh pit ignites. For for the first time for a local show since covid, the temptation to crowd surf becomes too much for some and they are carried on a wave of euphoria, arms aloft as security scramble to pull them down. ‘Lifehammer’ acts as the perfect curtain closer with many voices belting back the words and the pit looking like a bruising encounter. A room lost in the moment and hoping that it won’t come to an end.
Tonight has been a sweet relief for many; an opportunity to reminisce and take a nostalgic trip back with one of our favourite artists. A vital and invigorating tonic after a chaotic and challenging few years. You only had to look at the smiles and laughs on everyone’s faces as they walked into the night to know that this was a comeback worth savouring. There are few bands able to capture this sense of euphoria and leave our ears ringing in equal measure, it’s great to have them back.