“I don’t want it to end.”
Wandering around the grand Koko venue, this sentence will fall repeatedly from the lips of The Blackout’s fans as they face the realisation that this will be the last time they’ll see the band perform in London.
Since forming 12 years ago, The Blackout have had a damn solid innings with three EPs, four albums and countless support slots, headline shows, and festival appearances under their belts. But last December, they revealed that they were “unable to sustain the band anymore” and the brilliantly-titled This Is It Is It farewell tour dates were announced. Those four months have flown by and now their final shows are in full swing.
With circle pits breaking out to songs blasting through the PA before The Blackout were anywhere to be seen, this London show was always going to be a chaotic affair. As the infamous ‘Fuck The Blackout’ banner gets raised, the volume of the screams is almost deafening. Shouts of “WE. ARE. THE DY-NA-MITE!” ring loudly through the air and when the Welsh sextet finally appear and smash straight into Wolves, pandemonium ensues.
As the entire of Koko bounces in unison to the filthy riffs and pounding beats, vocalist Sean Smith slides along on his knees with the microphone wire wrapped round his neck like some sort of demon child. By the time second song We’re Going to Hell… So Bring the Sunblock comes around, co-vocalist Gav Butler is standing tall on the hands of the baying audience somewhere near the middle of the floor.
It’s clear from the off that both band and audience weren’t going to let this one go quietly, a point made even clearer during the full-room sing-along for This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Knickers are thrown on to the stage as the band kick in to Spread Legs Not Lies and the floor of Koko once again turns into a mass of flailing limbs and ear-splitting screams. The remaining four members of The Blackout constantly watch their vocalists’ backs throughout the show, as Sean and Gav use the stage as their personal playground, doing running flips over each other and generally causing merry hell.
Ensuring that the fans got their money’s worth, the band tore through big-hitters from their back catalogue, playing as though their lives depended on it. From the massive Children Of The Night, to oldies like The Beijing Cocktail and Prepare for a Wound through to newer tracks Hope (Scream It Out Loud) and a particularly lairy Start The Party, their body of work sounds mightily impressive. Combined with the boundless energy and adulation from the crowd, it makes you wonder why they’d call it quits. Sadly, a band of The Blackout’s stature isn’t sustainable forever due to money issues and growing family responsibilities, but tonight, it felt like they could continue forever.
Of course, no Blackout show would be complete without some banter from Smith and Butler – South Wales’ answer to Statler and Waldorf, if you like – and this show was no exception. Smith rants about being sexually confused by Placebo’s Brian Molko, goths were given their due (“We’re all goths… make some noise if you’re a goth.”) and a giant inflatable penis momentarily replaces guitarist Matthew Davies’ leg. Smith gleefully thanks the crowd, remarking that he’s having “the time of his life” and even kisses not one, but two security guys on the head.
A furious medley of tracks from their first ever EP receives a huge reaction, showing that most people at the show probably, quite literally, grew up with the band. The one-two of I’m a Riot? You’re a Fucking Riot! and ShutTheFuckUppercut keep the energy at fever pitch right to the end and as the soaring ‘woahs’ of Save Our Selves (The Warning) ring out long after the band leave the stage, it’s clear that The Blackout have definitely made their mark on this audience and beyond during their lengthy career.
It’s unclear whether they’ll return in a few years – as seems to be the case with a lot of groups that prematurely split these days – but tonight, they leave their fans with a farewell that will live long in the memory.
**The Blackout: Live at Koko, London, March 24, 2015 **Photos: Alison Clarke