OFF! – [Live]

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

There is no shortage of bands (and concertgoers) who complain about the truncated timelines associated with festival shows (they're tight and the sets are short – which guarantees that someone in the audience will say, “Gee – why couldn't they have played 'that' song?”), but those tenuous constraints feel like they may have been tailor-made to suit OFF! With a set of short songs (about a minute and a half or less on average) and a staggering amount of adrenaline, the band is able to play through most of their recorded output in a single set and still have ample time left over to engage their audience with a bit of banter. With that kind of speed set as integral to the band's sound, skeptics are justified in questioning how good OFF! could possibly sound live, but those who know know better; not only can it work, but an OFF! show can be positively overwhelming.

Hot on Fucked Up's heels at Yonge-Dundas Square, OFF! Showed the uninitiated how an old-school So Cal punk show used to go by cramming sixteen songs and a surprising amount of Keith Morris' ranting and raving stage dialogue into just over twenty-eight minutes. Looking at those numbers the reasonable assumption would be that whatever shape an OFF! show might take, it would most closely resemble a blur but, in fact, every drop of the vitriol in each of the band's songs (all sixteen of them) was perfectly articulated, virile and terrifyingly infectious on stage.

Listeners could feel their hearts begin to race and their adrenaline levels rise immediately as “Black Thoughts”lunged forth like a feral animal escaping from all four band members to open the band's set and, from there, the race was truly on. Keith Morris didn't even break for breath as the band slammed from “Black Thoughts” into “Darkness” and then into “I Don't Belong,” and then only paused to let the singer dismiss every government body in North America (“That's right, fuck my government and fuck yours too at the same time”) before painting the White House black with “Poison City.” Seeing OFF! in action is genuinely remarkable; in those first four songs alone, Morris screamed fit to shred both his lungs and guitarist Dmitri Coats may very well have worn a path into the stage with the number of times he circled stage right. The energy exuded from the men on stage was absolutely palpable and their reserves never seemed to dip or diminish at any point.

As great as the show was, the flies in the ointment showed themselves each time Morris would grind the band to  halt in order to address the crowd. To be fair, while imagining the act of tarring and feathering government officials at the Superbowl and a tribute to fallen Gun Club singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce were funny and/or appropriate, Morris could use a little work on his comic timing because they seemed to run a bit long, and the discussions of child molesters were a touch much. The band seemed to be a little bored with the singer's diatribes too, as they would urge the singer to get to get to the next song with reasonably good humor.

As “Panic Attack” and “Inside Out” spiraled the band's set to a close, the audience cheered as loud as it was able but, after watching OFF! tear through its set, the only assumption that one might have been able to make is that the band worked its audience as hard as they worked themselves; the crowd was still excited, but a little winded by the band's performance. At the close of the set, no small number of jaws dropped at the discovery that OFF had played for under a half hour; it didn't seem right (it had to have been longer), but that was the incredible thing about the band's performance at Yonge-Dundas Square: in a half hour, OFF! put in a harder day's work than many bands but, not only that, they made their audience feel it too.



Click here for a listing of OFF!'s upcoming tour dates.

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