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(Live Review) Sick Of It All (with Ritalin and The Deadline)

Jonathan Allan



To tell the truth, I’m not really much of a hardcore fan. So while I’m not exactly converted, New York hardcore stalwarts Sick Of It All are a mightily impressive live act. One of few punk acts to tour this part of the antipodes, Sick Of It All were supporting their 2003 release Life On The Ropes with a five-date tour of Aotearoa. Wellington fans turned out in large numbers to see the seminal punk-hardcore act, packing out Indigo for a warm welcome.
Wellington’s The Deadline opened. A fresh band playing a fresh set of raw and rough hardcore – with feminine vocals! Ritalin may have been a case of ‘wrong place at the wrong time’, their pop punk performance poorly received and regarded as a mere afterthought by the hardcore faithful. Sick Of It All were who they wanted to see.
During their career, Sick Of It All have suffered from associations with aggression, as frequent fighting at early shows gave them the unwanted and unfounded image of condoning violence. The band has attempted to disassociate itself from the violent acts of fans, especially when Massachusetts prep student Wayne Lo shot and killed several classmates in the early ‘90s, whilst wearing a Sick of It All T-shirt. (The New York Times allowed the band to issue a statement of exoneration, explaining how Lo had misinterpreted their lyrics. Rolling Stone also ran an editorial in defence of the band.)
With this reputation I didn’t quite know what to expect, but the (albeit rowdy and riotous) mosh pit was well-behaved, even when front man Lou Koller decided to play a game called ‘Braveheart’. “You know that scene where the British are on one side…” Er, yeah, you guessed it. Koller divided the room into two and sent both parties hurtling at one another to the tune of a thunderous bass riff.
Theatrics aside, Sick Of It All ooze professionalism. Forming in 1984, they’ve almost spent as much time playing as I have breathing. This shows(!) Koller keeps his hands on the reigns, controlling the tight set with never-more-than-necessary between-song banter. As expected, the performance is high-energy and high-enthusiasm. Loud and heavy hardcore is laced with just enough melody to keep even the more wussy punter (re: me) happy. I can only hope that more international bands (be they punk, hardcore or whatever) decide to travel all that distance to come and kick our arses with a blinding aural display, much like Sick Of It All.