Live Review: The Used – Newcastle University, 16th September 2009

The+UsedUtah quartet The Used are back for a full UK trek for the first time since 2007, in support of new album Artwork. The masses of black, eyeliner, dyed hair and such, ensure the mood for the evening, many more hardcore fans queueing for many hours beforehand for a better view.

Southend punk mob Hexes start proceedings off, and to little-but-no reaction from their crowd, one which is still making it’s way in as the band start to play. Frontman Daniel P. Carter of Radio 1 fame isn’t much in the way of charismatic, so Hexes let the music do the talking; their gritty, snotty, strangely synth-infused brand of hardcore sending a few heads nodding at best. They don’t sound half as good as on record tonight, usually solid songs like Semaphore Kids sounding flat, especially with a major lack of that trademark screaming that really defines the band. Nonetheless, it’s prepared the crowd for the night ahead…

London post-hardcore outfit We Are The Ocean find themselves in uncharted territory tonight; they go for the game plan of playing a set consisting almost entirely of new, unheard material, to a crowd in that the majority have no idea who they are. Those who do, however, find themselves somewhat stuck for the usual movement and energy that accompanies their sets hand-in-hand. The band do sound surprisingly tight and together tonight, but it’s the material that falters, a lot of it being slow, without much of a notable, catchy chorus that usually pops up on the bands self-titled EP. Songs like Don’t Be Careless and closer Nothing Good Has Happened yet still find a place into the set, and with some help from frontman Dan Brown, starting the first proper moshpits of the night as he throws himself over the barrier, the crowd begin to open up, and all matter of sweaty dancing, fanatic moshpits and crowdsurfing occurs, clawing back some bonus points in an otherwise surprisingly boring set.

The Used make their way to the stage half an hour later, to a rapturous applause; the hardcore elite in absolute hysterics at the prospect before them. What is to follow is quite possibly one of the direst, sloppiest sets performed by a professional band.

With every track in full swing, they do have the energy, but frontman Bert McCraken‘s voice is virtually unheard thanks to some terrible sound work in the venue; this might be considered a bonus, once you hear he’s completely out of tune on each note that comes out of his mouth. The band playing behind him sound muffled, and as a result, it greatly effects what’s a pretty bog-standard run-in anyway. Tracks like Take It Away, Hospital, and crowd favourite The Taste Of Ink still manage to garter mass sing-a-longs from the audience, but in truest and simplest form, it’s hardly deserved. Kudos, however, to each new track played, which sounds somewhat tighter and better, maybe due to the fact they’ve only been heard for the first time by many in attendance.

McCraken commands the ever-easy rows in front of him with nothing but the tip of his tongue, dishing out all the cheesiest “Hell yeahs” and “Yo mamma’s…”, and it’s all just a bit embarrassing. Even Pretty Handsome Awkward, one of the strongest songs on record, sounds utterly terrible tonight, the whole band are playing each song a lot deeper than usual and it really shows; sounding more like a Tesco value My Chemical Romance than one of the biggest alternative rock bands gracing the circuit these days.

After barely more than a dozen (if that) songs, The Used are done; their crowd seem happy enough, even if it’s only by name, but you’ve got to ask yourself; if the band play like that all the time, surely it’s a wonder they’re this popular? A shockingly awful set, marring a pretty average show.

- George Cannings.

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