The Carling Islington Academy is a very strange venue. Hidden inside a shopping centre, it is outwardly a tacky, sterile, previously failed nightclub, bought out by the lager giants as part of their audacious bid to seemingly sponsor anything musical.
And it's tiny. Such an informal size, in fact, that it should offer that degree of charm and intimacy normally associated with these smaller dates. But the place is so devoid of character, and so unbelievably commercial (seriously, there's a sign behind the bar reminding you there's a cash machine on site if you run out of dough), that staging a punk gig here just doesn't seem right.
Fortunately, Alkaline Trio's take on punk really ain't that normal, so it all evens out. Sure, the songs are reeled off thick and fast throughout the evening's set, with singers Matt Skiba and Matt Andriano barely taking time to draw breath between their three-minute exertions. But the Trio's dark (and very deliberate) take on a genre that has fallen victim to a misguided glut of pop acts, seems to easily overcome the inappropriate surroundings, adjusting the tone so that the lack of punkish anarchy is redressed through working substance over style.
Before the first note of 'Good Mourning' and evening opener, 'This Could be Love' is even struck, the crowd surfing begins. It's a tiny journey from the back of the congregation to the stage edge, and the kids are piling on top of each other within seconds to reach the front, where the morbid sermon is being belted out.
As they flow into a brilliant rendition of hit 'We've Had Enough', the waves of bodies crash endlessly forwards, as do the slightly bigger frames of those who should perhaps know better, with many thumping to the ground as they realize they're not 14 anymore.
As much as the song, and the band's, sentiment is one that strives not to emulate many of their contemporaries, their music can still have the same effect on a room of fans, and the abundant audience adulation that features throughout the evening is expressed through unerring moshing, singing, and indulgence, with not a gloomy face in the place.
There's something for everyone here, and the Trio have got a lot more love to offer their followers than their bleak outlook would suggest. And hell, put these guys in a venue with a bit more dank and a hint of that beer drenched musty smell, and they've got the class to please every generation, from veterans sporting safety pin scars, to lip-ringed teens, and kids wearing Blink 182 hoodies ten sizes too big.
Their material is a touch on the dark side, and it engulfs the crowd like an epidemic, as a thankfully not fatal sea of smiles spreads across the hall. Although big hitters 'Stupid Kid' and 'Mr Chainsaw' are notable omissions, the devoted audience is kept happy by an enthralling set, with 'All On Black', 'Maybe I'll Catch Fire' and closer 'Private Eye' being lapped up in all their anthemic glory.
The encore climaxes on early signature tune 'Radio', as a mass huddle of bodies continues to squirm at the front, with slightly more delicate, mature soles nodding appreciatively further back, mouthing every word, and ratifying the ideal that this a band that offer that bit more than some of their teen pop punk counterparts.
Writer: Tim Newbound