Until Friday, I never saw Refused, the Swedish hardcore punks. And I might never still have if a fellow blogger hadn’t missed the show due to a conflict.
I picked up the show at 9:30 Club on Feb. 21, and I was struck by the nuances of a band that I confess is a bit outside my wheelhouse. But what made the show for me was the dancing of frontman Dennis Lyxzén.
Refused released War Music, a fifth studio album, last year five Spinefarm Records. And should you like hardcore or post-hardcore music, War Music has a lot to offer you — stampeding guitars, screeching vocals, catchy rhythms. But beyond that, the gents, led by Dennis, proved confident performers.
Opening the show with recent single “Blood Red,” Refused dedicated about half the show to the new record, pounding away at their instruments with tremendous focus. Dennis soon allowed the rhythm to move him, forward and back, side to side. He danced at the front of the stage in a jive, and he danced at the back of the stage for a sidestep. Although he was always clearly dancing to the tune playing at the moment, you could be forgiven if you couldn’t hear the tunes and presumed he was dancing to an entirely different genre of music all together.
There was a defiant grace and carefree abandon to the dance, and Dennis seemed to float in body even as he screamed in spirit.
Stream War Music by Refused on Spotify:
In addition to eight songs from War Music, Refused picked a single song, “Elektra,” from Freedom, the band’s 2015 reunion album. It also reached back to two of their albums from the ’90s — favoring The Shape of Punk to Come (1998) and Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent (1996).
Given how 9:30 Club was packed with eager crowd surfers — very nearly but not quite sold out — Refused clearly have struck upon a winning formula with their compelling live act.
In the photos below, I tried to capture some sense of Dennis’ movement in several frames. Perhaps I make too much of it, but I certainly appreciated a showman who was capable of letting the music flow through him. For a hardcore act, I would have suspected a frontman who merely served as a conduit for vocal rage.
Here are some photos of Refused performing at 9:30 Club on Feb. 21, 2020. All photos by Mickey McCarter.