This tour is set to be a pretty special one for the Used. In fact, it’s pretty special in terms of tours, period; how often does one band play two nights consecutively in the same venue in each city? In the case of the Used, they’re playing the entirety of their debut self-titled album on the first night, and their second album In Love And Death on the second night. Cool, right?
The New Regime are up first; solo project of Ilan Rubin of Nine Inch Nails, Lostprophets fame. Their intro is very stylised and slick; as opposed to launching onto the stage they build up to their first song which is a welcome change, even though it takes the pace a while to build after the fact. Within moments, it’s easy to see the connection in why they’re supporting the Used- there’s a similar sound in the musical element of their performance. Second song All Laid Out To Rest is riff fuelled and sharp, with vocals that simultaneously contradict and compliment everything else going on. Things get a little futuristic during Don’t Chase It, with Rubin having a tiny sound pad fastened to his mic that is utilised during the introduction. Overwhelmingly intense throughout, the New Regime vary between capturing an atmosphere and then slightly missing the mark at different points in the set- however there’s no denying that they’re an incredibly loud band, causing actual vibrations throughout the Academy from start to finish.
The Used though, are something else entirely. A microphone stands in the centre of the stage, a scarf tied around it that drapes all the way to the floor; the backdrop is that of their debut album cover. Fans wait with baited breath, staring at the artwork impatient to hear that very album in its entirety; revisiting the angst and emotion that this band channelled into their first piece of art over fifteen years ago. Air raid sirens sound over the crowd which is rather alarming, and continue well into Maybe Memories complete with its jilting intro before band and crowd alike erupt with energy.
“I want everyone to be themselves tonight!” Announces frontman Bert McCracken, as he takes a fingerless glove, reminiscent of earlier days of the Used, from a member of the crowd and slips it onto his hand for it to remain there throughout their set. “If you want to just stand and take in the music, that’s fine! But if you want to go mental then that’s awesome!” Things are certifiably euphoric so early on in the show when the second track on the album, The Taste Of Ink hits; there are some beautiful moments during the bridge as McCracken just lets the crowd carry the song as he stands and savours the moment. As they play Bulimic, a pattern begins to emerge- every song from this album seems to be an anthem to the majority of the audience, an absolute credit to the continuing importance of the record, years on.“I’ve been so nervous about playing some of these songs live,” Bert admits, but the band are doing fine. If anything, these songs display the lasting strength of emotion, as well as the fact McCracken’s voice is still as unfalteringly bewitching and unique as it always has been. Buried Myself Alive followed by A Box Full Of Sharp Objects seem to best encapsulate the pain of the album, but by no means pack less of a punch. The frontman describes Blue and Yellow as the song they get asked to play live the most, which is evident by the reaction it spurs. Between songs, people are throwing letters on the stage, which the band are picking up and taking the time to read- there is such a sense of community in the room tonight and the band seem genuinely as happy to be playing their debut album in full as the audience are hearing it, considering this is the first show and all. From Greener With the Scenery to Noises and Kisses- both songs that the band have never or have hardly ever played live (“I think we maybe played this once, like fourteen years ago?!” McCracken recalls regarding the latter) the Used never falter once- no matter how nervous they say they are.“This next song is about being on your own. But you’re really, really not. I believe when we have our favourite music, we’re never truly alone.” This speaks volumes to tonight’s crowd, as well as probably all the members of the band both then and now- the look on their faces makes it seem like relieving all of this is almost a therapeutic process. On My Own seems to have a slightly different feel to it; having just mentioned going through some dark times in his past, McCracken seems fidgety and a little tense- it’s a really personal and touching moment to see him re-connecting with the feelings he had when the songs were first written.
The band exit after Pieces Mended, only to make a swift return for an explosive and erratic run through Choke Me, the first time this has been played live since 2003. It’s an abrupt yet fitting ending; just as angry and volatile as the majority of their debut. As McCracken stated earlier in the show, anniversary tours do usually mean a band is on its way out, but not the Used. “These two albums were just too important to forget, we’re not fucking done!”- A sentiment that was wildly popular with the crowd, not to mention a statement that is unarguably so true. These two albums are important, because it’s where the Used started; the Used who have now become a band who are an irreplaceable force on the rock scene today.
Photos by Erin Moore at Forte Photography UK