Refused: Back with a vengeance

***** (5 stars out of 6); July 7 at Arena, Roskilde Festival

“Reunited after 14 years,” a voice announced from the Arena stage, “hardcore masterpieces: Refused!” And there was no turning back. Everyone present knew to expect greatness and Sweden’s favourite hardcore-punkers did not disappoint.

The venue was dark. A large, black curtain reading ‘Refused’ covered the stage and the audience called for the band, cheering, clapping and whistling. They took their sweet time to appear, but what’s another 10 minutes when you’ve been waiting 14 years?

The curtain dropped and a legendary concert began. Right off the bat, Refused made one of the most dramatic entrances this reviewer has seen so far at this year’s Roskilde Festival. The band seemed to explode onto the stage as the curtain vanished before them.

Lead singer Dennis Lyxzén was on top of his game, vocally and performance-wise. His showmanship was up there with the greats – he was like the Swedish punk version of Mick Jagger. It was impossible not to be in awe of this man, who jumped more times than any other performer I’ve ever seen.

The band’s masterpiece album from 1998, The Shape of Punk to Come comprised much of the set-list. Ranked at number 13 on Kerrang! magazine’s '50 Most Influential Albums of All Time', the record was celebrated in full force.

It’s difficult to single out the highlights of the concert, as both Refused and the audience seemed to be on fire the entire time. It was like Lyxzén was possessed and nothing could stop him from rocking the hell out of the Arena stage. He crowd-surfed, sang amongst the audience, threw his microphone stand up in the air and even did a summersault followed by the split – a truly amazing frontman.

It was almost difficult to keep track of Lyxzén, as he seemed to be everywhere. During the song ‘Rather be Dead’ from the 1996 album Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent, Lyxzén suddenly got much taller, as he was standing on one of the speakers before triumphantly jumping back to the stage in perfect synch with the music.

His connection with the audience was evident. He spoke several times, in between songs, and it felt like he was one of us. He chose to speak in English, claiming that in his experience, Danes don’t understand Swedish. He reminisced about playing at the famous Copenhagen venue Stengade 30 in 1992 and the crowed cheered in approval.

Refused is known for their socially-conscious lyrics, so when Lyxzén said that the band’s words “mean more now than ever because the world is more f**ked up now than 14 years ago”, there was a moment when the crowd knew that this wasn’t just a concert. It was a reunion for those who believe that music can make a difference. When Lyxzén bellowed out the lyrics for mega-hit ‘New Noise’, lines like “We dance to all the wrong songs, we enjoy all the wrong moves” suddenly gained new meaning.

After the song was finished, Lyxzén laid on the stage floor, looking pleased and strangely poetic. After a while, he rose up and thanked the audience for their support, claiming they were the reason Refused was kept alive.

“You already know this,” Lyxzén philosophised. “Don’t let anyone tell who you should be, what you should wear, how you should think,” he continued. “You already know this: Stay f**cking wild”. And the audience loved every word.

After that, Refused stood on stage and said farewell to a loyal and content audience. The reunion was over but the concert was forever imprinted in the minds of the audience. Refused was back, with a vengeance.

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