It’s been two years since Young Legionnaire have played live. The members have been away recording and touring with their former bands – singer/guitarist Paul Mullen with The Automatic and bassist Gordon Moakes with Bloc Party. But after coming back together, they have emerged as a tighter, louder and better band.
The upstairs room of The Garage in North London is fairly small – I would guess that the maximum capacity would be about 100 people or so. My friends and I positioned ourselves right in front of Moakes in the front row. Perhaps it was a schoolboy error to be so close to the speakers – our ears were immediately battered by the opening chords of ‘Killdozer’ from their outstanding 2012 EP ‘Wreckonomics’. The post-hardcore trio threw themselves into their music, creating a massive noise and shaking the foundations of the small venue. It was deafening and thrilling.
For the first few songs of their set, it was clear that there were some sound issues – the two main concerns being a fairly prominent crackling in the main speakers and Moakes’ microphone not working. Whether or not the crackling sound was because of how loud the musicians were playing, I do not know. It took a while for the sound engineer to sort out Moakes’ microphone, but towards the end of their third song ‘Blood Dance’, it was rectified and prompted cheers from the audience when we could hear the bassist’s voice.
The set comprised mainly of the band’s 2011 album ‘Crisis Works’, and songs such as ‘Black Lions’ and ‘Chapter, Verse’ were received warmly by the crowd, but it was album opener ‘Twin Victory’ that received the most cheers, and for good reason – it was a brutal and tight song with a hint of math rock which was excellent executed, and Moakes and drummer Dean Pearson locked in with each other precisely. The band also aired a couple of new songs (written on the setlist as simply ‘New 6/8’ and ‘New Arpeg’) which were welcomed politely by the audience.
A touching sentiment from Moakes before the band’s encore of ‘A Hole in the World’ was a nice turn from the madness that ensued before in the main set. “I would like to dedicate this next song to my friend Russell. I’m not too sure if he’s still here as he is going to be a father any time now. This will be the last time you go to a gig in 18 years. Hey, I did it! This one’s for you, friend.” Moakes was referring to Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack who was present in the audience. Bloc Party are one of my all-time favourite bands and as there has been no news as to if they will be coming back from their indefinite hiatus or not, so it was rather fitting that Moakes mentioned his former bandmate.
Young Legionnaire are still a small band but they have big songs and an even bigger stage presence. Despite the sound problems early on and a crowd who weren’t as engaging as they could have been, the band stormed through their one hour set with intensity and power, leaving mine and my friends’ ears ringing for the next day or so. This was just a one-off intimate gig, but hopefully this fantastic performance will give Young Legionnaire more confidence to make a second album and finally play in bigger venues to bigger crowds – they are more than capable of doing this.
Wembley Arena, prepare your speakers.