• James O'Sullivan

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes - Live from O2 Academy Brixton

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes - 13th November, Live at O2 Brixton Academy – a welcome sentence, one unheard of in this wreck of a year. Broadcast by MelodyVR, the night saw the band take over the mighty O2 Academy Brixton for the second time, just under three years after their triumphantly seminal gig in 2017. With a setlist chosen by fans, if perhaps with a little oversight from the boys, the show was a much-needed musical celebration.

After a few jarring seconds of situating the phone so as to be able to see the band, everyone was welcomed by what could be mistaken as a shop window of a television store, with dozens of screens all showing Frank thanking everyone for being there, before the five – Tank Barclay, Gareth Grover, Elliott Russell, Dean Richardson and the main man himself Frank Carter – tore into Juggernaut. The blast of frenzied fury was the perfect way to start off such a unique and uncertain night, settling any fears that an empty room might not have the same feel as a packed gig.

“It feels good to be back” screams Frank, with an infectious grin and a leather jacket just as inked as the main man himself, covered in flames and roses – perhaps a cheeky nod to his recently opened tattoo parlour, the Rose of Mercy, with many of the lucky golden ticket holders sporting some of his ink themselves.

Next up came the distinctly Tom Morello featuring masterpiece, Tyrant Lizard King. Strutting across the legendary stage of O2 Brixton, Frank makes the show seem as intimate as the Kerrang! show that they did at a 50 cap dive bar at the close of 2019. The jubilantly endearing cockiness is a joy to behold, as he kisses and cheekily winks at the camera between head bangs, while the song’s close lets the band showcase just how unique the gig really is as he speaks to the fans up on the screens. The interaction seems completely natural; its novelty, with each person called by name, made this whole thing a celebration, with songs being dedicated left and right.

After mainstay Lullaby comes Fire, its live re-debut after finally seeing the wide-spread light of day in their recently released deluxe edition of their debut album, Blossom. Both Fire and Rotten Blossom, coming straight after, are nicely deep-cut additions to the set which hark back to those first sweaty shows, just after Gallows – shows which also got some light of day in the addition of live tracks to the afore mentioned Blossom deluxe. Rotten Blossom is especially delightful, with its last play being at the exact same venue three years prior! These two, and the two that followed them, were particularly special. First up was Snake Eyes, with the venue being lit blood red as the background to the beautifully raucous tune, while Fangs, dedicated to Sarah Rosser, the creator of the ‘Snake Pit’ social group, was iconic in every sense of the word. When it comes to Brixton, as anyone who has listened to the live album can attest, Fangs is the Frank Carter anthem -- though only played through the once this time!

Meanwhile, Wild Flowers was as empowering as ever, even with the lack of a crowd for the female only mosh pits and crowd surfing, while Modern Ruin truly comes to life in the light of everything going on this year. Anxiety, however, hit differently. With people afraid to leave their houses, the idea of anxiety is something any of us can relate to.While speaking to his mum up on screen, Frank used the moment to advocate about mental health, and his own experiences. While playing with Gallows, his former hardcore outfit, he was struck with a sudden sense of fear while at the Leadmill in Sheffield, leading to him hiding behind the curtain and phoning his mum for comfort. A poignant and powerful intro to a poignant and powerful song. The band followed this up with Why A Butterfly Can’t Love A Spider, the only non-single from End of Suffering featured throughout the night. The track is as passionate as any other, yet slow and gentle enough to be a moment of down-time – not that one would know, with how heavy as Frank’s breathing is after. Though the sweat might not be as blatant through a screen, compared to dripping on their adoring fans, it still remains deathly obvious just how much effort Frank and the gang are putting in, and just how much they needed this.

After a short interlude, with Frank talking to Andy Copping (of Download Festival fame) on stage, comes Devil Inside Me, a song about our ‘demons’, as Frank explains. And boy, there’s nothing like a crowd favourite from their heaviest album to show just why they’ve been booked for Download’s main stage next year. Featuring the world’s first ever virtual, interactive at-home mosh pit, as Frank orders his legions to crouch and wait for his command, it is as passionate as ever. Ostensibly about mental health, Frank follows this up with a nice romantic love song: Kitty Sucker. Though not before Frank calls out one of his fans for not allowing their kids to jump on the sofa – perhaps not the most appropriate song to mention children before, what with the subject matter (hint: read the track name).

The penultimate song of the night, to no-one’s surprise, is the cathartic and rage-fuelled Crowbar. The lead single from End of Suffering, and with good reason, Crowbar is about being yourself and ignoring anyone trying to tell you who or how you should be. Coming from a background in punk music, itself typically ostracised from the mainstream, this message always hits home. With Frank singing directly into the camera, a manic gleam glistening in his eyes, it is as electric as anyone could ask for.

The final song acts as an alternative to Crowbar, I Hate You. However, rather than the typically vitriolic (if tongue in cheek) end typical of a Rattlesnakes gig, I Hate You became a moment of cohesion. Whether it was Frank getting distracted by someone watching with a bearded dragon on their head, leading to him restarting the second verse, or simply half of the words vanishing over Frank’s infectious laughter, it became less of a viciously acerbic song, and more one of cathartic, hilarious unity.

Though sadly not the same as a live show –not least because of the lack of ‘Deano’ chants every time the band has a moment of down time, except for one chaotically discordant chart at the end – this is as close to ‘normal’ as anyone can get for a long time. Other than a few moments that showcase this being a virtual gig, with Frank at one point seeming to disappear for a second, along with a few connection issues, Live at Brixton part two was a resounding and well-deserved success. The screens enabled an intimacy unheard of from bands this size, while also stopping the whole thing simply being little more than a rehearsal, with applause flying in after each song. Despite arguably one of the greatest UK venues of all-time being entirely empty, reminiscent of the venue’s old existence as somewhere for bands to soundcheck before their gigs elsewhere, the show felt genuine, and just what 2020 needed!

Let’s hope that there’s more where this came from, #YouCantFurloughARockStar.

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