Going out on tour after landing a top 10 UK album is a good enough feeling for anyone, but Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes also have the achievement of this tour being completely sold out.
The elated feeling shows as they dramatically roll onto the stage one by one, to be greeted by a hungry crowd that are squeezed from wall to wall into a vast Manchester Academy 2, the biggest Manchester venue they have played so far.
To some older fans’ delight, this tour brings the welcome addition of former bassist Thomas Mitchener, now playing keys and rhythm guitar. This new instrumentation really adds to the new level which The Rattlesnakes live set is at, and on a personal level it’s just nice to have him back with them, as he produced their January released album Modern Ruin.
They begin the set with the song they released to begin the Modern Ruin album campaign last year, Snake Eyes. Carter takes a moment to look over the crowd, possibly thinking back to the first Manchester show in 2015, and wondering how they got to this vast crowd in just two years. Near the end they break down into simply vocals alone, and as the entire band harmonise as one, it’s clear to see that this tour is something special; it’s more than just playing the songs now. The production of this live set has been meticulously planned down to a tee.
Next up is fan favourite Trouble, which sends the bustling crowd into an absolute frenzy. It’s testament to how well this band is working that the older songs are appreciated in equal level to the newer ones. More of the same ensues with Juggernaut, which sees Carter throwing himself into the crowd and pulling his signature move in the breakdown of the song of standing on top of the crowd, before jumping right back in again.
Things pause for a moment as the band address the crowd in extended speech properly for the first time in the night. Carter describes the next song to be played as ‘the crowd surfing song’, but just as people start to gear up ready to dive, he pauses, “there’s only one rule: women only.” A chorus of cheers greets his request, from men and women alike. “This will be a safe environment for every single person that comes to see our shows, especially women. Treat them with respect, don’t touch them inappropriately, because if you do, I will cut your head off with my bare hands.” The crowd obliges, and during the thunderous title track from new album Modern Ruin, it’s a wonderful sight to see plethora’s of ladies flailing around in the air, having the time of their lives.
There’s barely a second to catch your breath before they launch into Wild Flowers. It’s clear to see the band are enjoying having the new songs played live on this tour, and they play every second with as much conviction of tried-and-tested past tracks. Much is the same for new single Vampires, which goes down fantastically well, with the crowd shouting back every single word of the catchy choruses.
Then things get interesting. Fans who have been going to these shows for a long time are used to the heavy thrasher Jackals erupting into a crazy mosh pit, but the band have taken it into a different light for this tour. It has a jazzy blues feel to it, and a much slower tempo. It’s quite a shame to think we might not get the heavier version back on this run, but it’s refreshing to see that the band have more than that under their belts.
Continuing a more chilled out vibe momentarily, the band debut new album track Thunder, a poignant song exploring themes of religious extremism and the refugee crisis. The song builds from a heartfelt soliloquy to a raucous outpouring of emotion, with Carter ending up screaming the words and thrashing around the stage. It’s clear that this song means the absolute world to him, and he delivers it perfectly.
It’s hard to imagine that back in 2015 the band played Manchester converted pub the Star & Garter, as Frank reflects in his speech to the crowd: “I recognise some of you from the beginning, but whether you were there, or you’re new now, welcome!” He then dedicates old favourite Fangs to the people who helped him and the band get to where they are now; the fans. It goes down an absolute storm, with the audience throwing themselves around the room in appreciation.
God is My Friend is a strange choice to be performed live, but Carter’s vocal delivery speaks for itself, and it becomes clear why it’s been included in the set.
Slow jam Neon Rust is a stand-out moment of the set. It’s been one of the most well received non-singles of the new album, and it shows as the crowd scream the words “we don’t belong in a wasteland,” back at an awestruck band, who clearly know they’ve struck a chord with this beautiful track of both reflection, and hope for the future. The members of the band leave the stage one by one, and it’s an eerie sight to see the bright green lights left on, as the guitar riff of Dean Richardson still plays out continuously to an empty stage.
As the audience are expecting a full band to come back onto the stage for the encore, they are met with the unusual sight of Frank Carter holding a guitar, as he lulls into Bluebelle. It’s by no means perfect, and he’s the first to admit he’s not the best guitarist, but it makes a lovely change to see the usually wild frontman take a quiet step back and really express his vocal abilities for once, which are more advanced than just the raw scream people might expect.
Carter has barely put the guitar back down before he’s back into his usual mode as the full band reclaim the stage for Lullaby, quickly followed by Devil Inside Me. The crowd can sense that the end is near and make sure not to let a moment go to waste, as they bustle around with more energy than you’d think possible at this point. As the signature closing song I Hate You arrives, the crowd are still hungry for more. And who could blame them? Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are one of the most unmissable live bands around today, as tonight has clearly proven.