The sold out crowd that queues with a quiet hysteria around the Forum tonight is testament to a longevity and loyalty Glassjaw instill in their fanbase. United until the end. Chris Swindells was there to find out why.
The logic goes, give a dog a longer leash it will more often than not strangle itself, and with the haze of side-projects and label-less freedom it wasn’t beyond reason to think this New York band would suffer that very same fate – self-implode into obscurity. Fortunately Glassjaw have become the exception to the rule, the golden example in the theory of diminishing returns; give the fans less and they will come in greater numbers. Not that the project has been dead in the water but since their seminal second full length ‘Worship and Tribute’ in 2001 it’s been a quiet period dealing with line up rotation, crippling diseases and record label beauracy.
A decade on Daryl Palumbo looks tellingly healthier than he has ever done before, though still the lean skeletal figure, he carries a frame you wouldn’t at first associate with a metal frontman.
Opener ‘You Think You’re (John Fucking Lennon)’ has all the intensity and pant-tearing fight that the title would suggest and his stance declares a style of guerrilla warfare which forces home an aggression that even support act Napalm Death would be proud of.
‘Tip Your Bartender’ and ‘Mu Empire‘ have aged well, but lost something when this five piece became four and Justin Beck was left with the sole guitar chugging duties. Glassjaw were always progressive enough to carry off the odd musical set-back though and seemed so far-ahead in their game back in 2001 no one could catch up with them for innovation in music. Despairingly for the alternative scene they still take solo lead of the pack ten years on.
For all this depressing conjecture it’s still a celebration tonight and with a venue and camera crew watching on Daryl roars, shrills and sings his way through what is nearly the entirety of the bands second full length. The usual criticism remains though as the band hardly acknowledge their Roadrunner debut, dropping ‘Siberian Kiss’ for a token slice of their hardest-hitting hardcore moments which duly electrifies the pit with a freshly charged bolt of rage.
It’s this severing from the tethers with their past that seems to drive the band forward, always keen to sow new ground. This is no more true when they disappear for their encore break only to return with a five track encore featuring each and every track from a new EP that punters will be given free on leaving the venue. The kind gesture is not unwelcomed but to say goodnight on such obscure material is a brave move for any band, however loyal their fanbase. Tonight though you sense it more as a statement of the resolve and stead-fast resislance this band have had to grow in their journey together. As Daryl belts out the until-now-unheard lyrics to ‘Black Nurse’; “beyond poor, beyond ostracized, destined to be obscured” it’s a wonder who he’s really referring to, it surely can’t be Glassjaw with a show like this.