12 Bar, London - 23 November 2014

"A terrific, filler-free set and a well-deserved encore"

Despite suffering from a rotten cold and attendant hacking cough, I dragged my aching bones from my sickbed to make the arduous journey to the top of Charing Cross Road (with a stop off at Gabby’s for a take-away falafel as ritual dictates) to the soon-to-be-defunct 12 Bar in Denmark Street.

Bug Central and Bleach passed by without rousing me from my slightly grumpy torpor, as I contented myself with keeping a weather eye on proceedings via the in house CCTV system.

I’d seen a couple of things by Slug on YouTube and been reasonably impressed, and was interested to see them live, so I shifted my lazy arse into the back room when they came on. Unfortunately they delivered a performance that was entirely devoid of wit, style or substance (and more importantly any hint of a fucking tune). The whole thing passed by in an inexpressibly disheartening blur of sludgy guitar, wounded buffalos grunts and drunks with bad tattoos and worse hair thrashing aimlessly at the front of the stage. Lumpen, ugly and in need of a good scrub, the experience was everything I dislike about contemporary anarcho-punk. 0/10

Anthrax on the other hand, played a blinder. Despite a slightly tentative start (doubtless due to them fielding a new signing in the shape of Steph Hagar on rhythm guitar as well as a substitute drummer), they soon turned the dance floor into a seething mass of good natured chaos. It only took about three songs for me to throw caution to the winds and hurl myself into the melee, all thoughts of phlegmy head, dodgy back and wonky ankle cast aside.

  [Anthrax]   [Anthrax]

Anthrax Photos [L-R]: Graham Burnett (1), Punk Rock Pix - John Marshall (2-3)

Singer Oskar abandoned the stage for large chunks of the set, encouraging ad-hoc backing vocals from the audience, something that could have come across as a painfully contrived ‘man of the people’ gesture, but was clearly an organic response to the tiny, overcrowded stage, and a genuine commitment to inclusivity.

I’ve written about how good Anthrax are live before, but this is the first time I’d seen them since getting to know the new songs. Musically, I’ve talked about them in terms of the Pistols, Menace and The Cockney Rejects previously, but as they tore through Hunger Pains I realised I’d missed another influence that runs all the way through their recent material – the mighty Skids. Given that seeing Jobson & Co at The Marquee in 1978 was my induction into the punk rock life, and I consider Scared to Dance to be one of the best albums ever made, this is a revelation of some import.

They played a terrific, filler-free set, featuring the best bits from the recent CD, an airing of the latest single Beg Society which gets better every time I hear it, and a well-deserved encore.

I’d never particularly liked The 12 Bar - dismissing it as a ropey dive populated by tedious drunks - but as I walked back to Charing Cross station, soaked in sweat and steaming gently in the cold night air, it struck me that this was probably going to be the last time I ever went there. If this is going to be my swan-song at this particular venue, I can’t think of a better way to bow out than seeing one of the best bands in London play a gig good as this. 9/10

Setlist: One Last Drop, Happy, Beg, Got It All Wrong, Prime, Hunger Pains, Capitalism, Ska, Abracadabra, Another

Nick Hydra