AU56: And So I Watch You From Afar live review

May 1, 2009

ASIWYFA Mandela April 2009
Pic by the incomparable Matthew Alexander Patton (www.pavelware.com)

APRIL 4 2009

The last time ASIWYFA played this hall as part of their A Little Solidarity festival in November, they left Fighting With Wire’s headlining set feeling like an anti-climax. No such worries this evening – this is unequivocally their night and the bar just keeps on rising. We are gathered – packed in, actually – to celebrate the launch of ASIWYFA’s debut album, and after support slots by Adebisi Shank (incendiary on the big stage) and the Lowly Knights (a bit bland if we’re honest, as much as they look the part) the four horsemen of the the apocalypse stride on, each freshly tattooed with the band’s iconic new logo, to run through the album in sequence.

As good as that new record is, it’s no substitute for seeing this band live, and tonight is the absolute epitome of what they are all about. Think about it for a second – this local instrumental band has packed out the 750-capacity Mandela Hall, before they’ve even released their debut album proper. The balcony is closed to accommodate close friends and family, but they surely could have filled it, too. And the huge crowd isn’t just here out of curiosity, either; this is their band and they are ready to let them know it. The moshing starts with track one, ‘Set Guitars To Kill’, and hundreds of people join in with the joyous “woo!” in the middle of the song. And so the album continues, fierce and spectacular, complemented by an awe-inspiring light show, a feeling of sheer joy amongst the crowd and the always-entertaining sight of the seemingly possessed dervishes on stage.

As with the record, there is slight lull in the middle of the set, but given the way it begins with four of the most stunning tracks you will ever hear live, there’s no shame in that. Later, Tony actually admits that they forget to play ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’, but no matter. The main part of the set is completed with ‘These Riots Are Just The Beginning’ and a delirious ‘Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’, complete with Lowly Knights and assorted others forming a celestial choir high in the balcony. And then, all too soon, it’s encore time. ‘The Voiceless’ sounds as good as ever, while ‘Eat The City, Eat It Whole’ blends into old favourite ‘Mount Kailash’ for a punishing, gargantuan finale that feels like it is never going to end, but in a good way. During ‘Eat The City…’, an enthusiastic fan crowd-surfs his way into the less-than-welcoming arms of security, who try to strong-arm him out of the venue. Tony Wright stops the band and implores them, “He can walk, you don’t need to drag him!” Seconds later, he’s up on stage, dancing like a loon, before stage diving back into the maelstrom to loud cheers. After the song finally ends, Tony’s fellow guitarist Rory Friers executes a perfect stage dive of his own, and the band form at the front of the stage for a well-deserved bow. How they are going to top this is anyone’s guess.


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