Two reunions happened earlier this year that no one in the punk and hardcore community thought they would ever see. First was El Paso, Texas post-hardcore hero's At The Drive-In coming off an 11-year hiatus, then suddenly Swedish band Refused announced the end of their 14-year silence. Much like another reunited band, Pulp, the last time Refused played the United States was in 1998 and it would be their final show, which was broken up by police at a basement party in Alexandria, Virginia. Now, recharged, reloaded and reunited, Refused played New York City for surprisingly the very first time in the first of two sold-out concerts at Terminal 5.
"We came to the U.S. in 1996 to support Snapcase and we grew up on New York City Hardcore -- bands like Sick Of It All, Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, and Agnostic Front. So playing NYC was a big deal for us, but when we came here we played Long Island. So tonight is history," Refused front man Dennis Lyxzen told the audience halfway through the bands set. It was at that moment that the crowd realized that they were not just witnessing a band who they may or may not have ever seen or thought they would ever see, but they were witnessing a piece of history. Refused, much like At The Drive-In, broke up far too early in their career. Just as they were peaking everyone's attention, they called it quits, so these reunion shows are far more special than anyone could imagine.
As the house lights dimmed and a black curtain hung over the stage covering the band's gear, lights from behind the curtain blasted through a giant cutout that read - "R.E.F.U.S.E.D." It was a rather intimidating sight, but once the first hit of the snare drum happened it was as if an bomb went off into the audience as pandemonium at its finest occurred. Playing a majority of songs off their seminal final record, The Shape of Punk to Come, and being six shows into this reunion tour, it was as if Refused never left us. Musically the band sounded better than they ever did and playing to some of the largest audiences of their career, they had the power to reach out to everyone in the room like a band playing one of the world's largest stadiums.
Lyxzen would strut and move around stage like he was being chased by the police; he's a wildly physical front man who not only knows how to motivate and inspire an audience but also knows how to entertain. In between songs Lyxzen would reflect on the band's short career and reunion, politics, and those who influenced him, "We were a bunch of hicks from the North of Sweden. Four of us drove in a car for 12 hours to see Sick of It All play in Sweden. We slept in tents to see them," after he told his story, Refused brought out legendary Sick of it All front man Lou Koller to play his band's song's "Clobberin' Time," and "Injustice System." It was a night filled with surprises, reflection and most of all gratitude from the audience that the band is back, and gratitude from the band to the audience for having them back. While the set lasted just over an hour, the biggest and most earth-moving moment came when Refused played their biggest single, "New Noise," at which point the security team in the venue really earned its paychecks.
"Stay curious, stay wild and stay f*cking hungry," Lyxzen said to the faces in the crowd. He would tell everyone to stand for their beliefs and be who they are. While the band may have been silent for all these years only to be resurrected now, their message has been alive and well. Now back and better than ever, Refused can bring their message and agenda back to the masses at a time when the masses may need it most.