Prior to landing back on home soil, Bob Vylan have been getting rowdy in Europe for a string of dates. Now Bobby and Bobbie arrive in windy Birmingham for the evening with the intention of warming the second city’s O2 Institute.
Following support sets form Kid Bookie and Panic Shack, the main room is already teeming with life. The on-stage presence of custom flight cases – branded with the punk duo’s moniker – only exasperates the audience’s eagerness to get moving once again.
The music overhead settles and Bob Vylan’s now iconic, albeit intimidating, tour manager takes to the stage to introduce the two-piece. “What is going on?!” he shouts repeatedly through the mic, his wild white hair stark as ever.
It’s business as usual once the duo step on stage. Opening with some light stretching and guided meditation, the entirety of the crowd join in to loosen up in the already humid air; preparing their fragile bodies for the evening’s physical demands. Smoke machines release fog for an ominous starting point with ‘I Heard You Want Your Country Back’ and ballistic fans below the balcony don’t hesitate to clatter against one another.
It all looks too fun for vocalist Bobby who leaps into the crowd head first as the tempo of the track increases. Still the irony of the whitest man in the venue to have dreadlocks also being in the thick of it isn’t lost on the portion of onlookers who are tucked safely in the peripheries of the crowd.
There’s an immeasurable increase in enthusiasm since the UK’s most exciting punk band played in Birmingham, having upgraded from the smallest room in the Institute to the largest; representative of Bob Vylan’s exponential growth in the space of a year.
Bursting into setlist staple ‘Take That’, which is received with glorious enthusiasm, updated lyrics “Burn Britannia, kill the king, that’s a vibe” are echoed back towards the stage with heft. As Bobby interacts with the crowd to hold a vote of who thinks the police are a good or bad entity, two blokes who begin to look increasingly like undercover officers are booed in their opposition to the majority opinion that the police are awful. ‘Northern Rail’ kicks in to be quickly followed by an ACAB chant, leaving the two bald police types up front ready to melt away like the wicked witch of the west.
Their tour manager sneaks on stage once more to pin the Palestinian flag upon the branded flight cases, prompting Bobby to move into a moment concerned with talking about the free Palestine movement, whilst throwing a sneaky dig at another touring two piece. “Here at Bob Vylan we don’t mind if you throw things on stage,” he declares.
Bobby demands that all of the cis-men take a step back, allowing the non cis-men an opportunity to mosh free of worry from being groped or generally creeped upon, during the fitting new track ‘He’s A Man’. An anti toxic masculinity anthem rages through the Institute, as the odd cis-man tries to obnoxiously elbow his way into the carnage.
Heading towards the end of the show it’s clear to see how easy it is to work toward a safe and inclusive space in a live music setting. Perhaps the likely deduction is that other male-fronted bands simply can’t be arsed to do so.
feature image: Ki Price