There’s three decent warm-up acts on first tonight so there’s plenty of food for thought while we wait. Local act The Temptress (3.5 out of 5) are battling the half-empty gig room by staging their own mini dance-floor invasion. The songs are chaotic, but effective and so my only real criticism is that frontman Remi Marcel Jermy is blasting his malevolence down at his feet rather than out into our faces. Hopefully, they’ll nail down a bit more confidence as they progress and then songs like the excellent “Jack” will really leave a mark.
The odd one out here was always going to be Cambridge’s Unit 9 (3 out of 5) who, you could argue, are the only band not to dabble in hardcore. Instead they play hammering, blues-led swamp rock and sound, in turns, like Down, Black Label Society and Alice In Chains. Although “Dirty Sanchez” loses power in the chorus due to a spot of quirky offbeat drumming, “Tear It Down” goes a long way to making amends, drawing a fine reaction from the rapidly expanding, clearly open-minded crowd.
Main tour support comes from Heights (4 out of 5) who fire out a remorseless combo of slow, methodical beats and overlay it with barbed anthems which are gang-chanted in waves. “Forget”, in particularly, stands out with each word screamed out with hostile menace – “The sun will rise / And the time will pass / And I’ll forget you / I will forget you”. By the end, frontman Thomas Debaeres is getting mobbed so often he opts to retreat to a point of safety whilst the lead guitarist mounts the flimsy folding merch table, trampling CDs as he goes, in an attempt to bait the crowd further. The one image I’ll take away from it all, burnt onto the inside of my retinas, is of the bassist, all staring bug-eyes and bleeding gums, impotently mouthing the words to every goddamn song.
Feed The Rhino (4 out of 5) are in our faces from the start. Bearded frontman Lee Tobin leads the charge, but the Colley brothers and bassist Oz Craggs aren’t far behind, bonding with their disciples by means of raised guitars and mouthed lyrics; often just the odd nod is enough to get a reaction. New track “Knives” gets an early airing and pours fuel on simmering flames with all eyes now on Tobin as he falls to his knees to try and wring every last drop of energy out of his body. Thankfully, he’s up quickly to proffer the gift of an, as yet, unreleased song, and the bulldozing “Transistor Down”. The latter comes with an extra long, bassy build allowing for Tobin to mount the dangerously rickety, double-stacked PA to his left so he can really prime the crowd to full effect. No-one riles an audience like him and all his cajoling allows for a frothing collective to form; almost enough to catch him as he crazily leaps. The combination of height and weight was always going to take them down, but those who are left sprawling are quickly hauled back to their feet grinning like idiots.
From here on they lose a little of their intensity, almost as if they’ve misjudged just how hot the venue gets. Still, with the band constantly conferring to gauge each other’s impression of the show and thumbs going up, our bearded hero is soon chiming in to reward the audience with what they want to hear – the cheesy, yet clearly heartfelt “Tonight’s show has blown our minds and we’ll be coming back to Cambridge real soon.” He proceeds by teasing us with what he calls a “last song” but acquiesces to a couple extra when cries to the tune of “It’s only half-ten!” ring out. The band’s response is for one last big push and Tobin sets about organising the night’s first decent circle pit, two walls of death and a stage invasion for a crushing rendition of “Caller Of The Town”.
Despite everything, it still feels like there’s something missing from their performance – perhaps it’s the proximity of the four walls which has restricted their efforts. The band still predictably, yet exultantly, launch themselves into the crowd and manage to leave us with that delightfully disarming sense of loss and confusion that follows such mania when the banality of normality all too quickly resumes.
Also online (with more photos) @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/show-reviews/feed-the-rhino-cambridge-uk