LIVE REVIEW: Agnostic Front – The Take: Live at Mama Roux’s, Birmingham, UK

For years, metal and hardcore have been regular bedfellows but that wasn’t always the way. Back in the ’80s, metalheads regularly ran the risk of getting beaten up if they attended hardcore or punk shows. Skins and Mohawks did not take kindly to long-hairs stepping onto their turf, and vice versa. It wasn’t until the emergence of more popular bands like Slayer who, by straddling both genres, showed that the two sets of fans were capable of co-existing without confrontation.

With the genres having become entwined for so long, the only really noticeable difference these days is at live shows. Apart from the occasional stray elbow or crowd surfer, the moshpit at a metal gig isn’t the most dangerous place to be. Hardcore pits, however, remain a far more unpredictable beast. Still predominantly good-natured, just ten times more aggressive. Something that many in attendance this evening, huddled upstairs on the overcrowded balcony, appear to realise before the main support even hit the stage.

Originally a hardcore band, The Take have evolved into a combination of gritty street rock and “Oi!” punk, thrashing away with fiery chord progressions and bags of attitude. Shorn of one of their number thanks to the immigration policies of a certain Donald J Trump, the band have had to leave Colombian bass player Carlos Congote behind for this current tour, replacing him with Paul Stone (aka Stoney Strike) who hails from the previously unknown New York suburb of Darlington, North Yorkshire.

Apart from the amusing language barrier thrown up between the Yorkshireman and frontman Scott Roberts (the former Biohazard man laughingly stating “I can’t understand a word he says!”), the band are seriously tight as they stamp their way through the likes of ‘Place the Blame’, ‘Dead to Me’, ‘Elitist’, and ‘King of the World’. With the talented Will Shepler (ex-Agnostic Front, Madball) smashing the skins, the trio gets everyone moving and make themselves a lot of new friends.

Sensing imminent danger, even more, people squeeze upstairs to watch hardcore legends Agnostic Front. Celebrating thirty-five years of their debut album Victim in Pain, the band waits impatiently at the side of the stage, guitarist Vinnie Stigma resembling an angry bull ready to charge as the band’s intro music from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly builds to its climax.

Opening with ‘AF Stomp’, the band cause utter fucking pandemonium as the skinheads, punks and metallers on the dance floor – males and females alike – yank people off their feet and throw them to the ground, kicking and smashing into anything that moves, and a few things that don’t. Those stood on the edge of the pit are unceremoniously grabbed and thrown unapologetically into the fray as the band trot out newies like ‘I Remember’, ‘Urban Decay’, and ‘Spray Painted Walls’ alongside long-time favourites such as ‘The Eliminator’, ‘United and Strong’, ‘Your Mistake’, ‘Blind Justice’, ‘With Time’, and ‘Power’. More recent cuts like ‘Old New York’ and ‘For My Family’ get the crowd shouting along with frontman Roger Miret as he forces out each syllable like it’s his last.

The band are a never-ending flurry of activity as guest musicians appear and disappear at will, at one point the perpetually grinning Stigma even takes his guitar for a walkabout into the middle of the dance floor, encouraging a full speed circle pit to rage around him as he plays. Not even some sound issues later in the set which deprive Miret’s vocals of much of their bite, occasionally rendering them virtually inaudible, can stop the sheer downright visceral enjoyment of the all too brief one hour set. Finishing with a ridiculously exuberant version of Ramones classic ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, the packed out venue catches it’s breath and just about lives to see another day.

GARY ALCOCK