|John Coffey – Amsterdam, Paradiso - 30 September 2016|
|Written by Matt Bunting|
|Tuesday, 22 November 2016 03:45|
It’s always a shame when a top quality band decides to jack it all in for personal reasons, but it’s all the more difficult to take when that band is on the precipice of genuine greatness.
John Coffey – a hardcore/punk/rock n’ roll band from Utrecht, Netherlands – have climbed to pretty much the top of the Dutch scene, capable of selling out 2000 capacity venues. They announced their ‘indefinite hiatus’ on social media in early June, alongside a last European tour. This tour was not going to take in the UK, a territory they didn’t really break to. So in a case of if the mountain… we pack our bags and jet off to check out the last ever show of what could turn out to be one of the most under-rated rock bands of the 2010s.
The Paradiso’s 1500 tickets we’re all sold within a morning of going on sale so the place is packed to the rafters when opening band 45ACIDBABIES take the stage. A four piece dance punk band from Utrecht, they play solid tunes with a touch of indie pop and hints of noise rock here and there, all driven along by dance style bass lines. They do a good job of warming the crowd up in time for the arrival of the UK’s Black Peaks. I’ve seen these guys a few times and never really got into it. I think their debut album is an absolute stormer, but something seems to be missing for me in the live set up. They have all the showmanship and definitely the tunes, but somehow the slower less heavy moments don’t translate well to the stage and subsequently drag the high energy bits down. However that being said the Coffey faithful down the front are digging it. Definitely the blue print for a great British rock band for the years to come here.
John Coffey usually explode onto the stage with furious ‘Broke Neck’, but tonight has a different vibe. They come out to the slower grinding rock of ‘Needles’. It’s a great moment – almost a calm before the storm, but even the calm is raging. The tension is ramped up brilliantly with this move and when they follow it up with early single ‘Dirt & Stones’ all hell breaks loose. It’s an odd atmosphere for a punk rock gig – both bittersweet and joyous. Beer, beach balls, balloons, inflatable sharks and dinghys fly around the room as freely as legs, bodies, arms and trainers. This is the John Coffey family going absolutely bat shit crazy one last time and it’s a magnificent sight.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in the Netherlands people look after each other enough at a gig so that when you take security and barriers out of the equation there is nothing left but the question of why we need it so much in the UK. The Paradiso is another barrierless Dutch venue that provides a fantastic canvas for a proper spectacle: true, pure and completely unrestrained punk rock chaos. John Coffey’s admirable acceptance of stage divers and invaders certainly helps though.
As the band continue to rage through their impressive back catalogue they even take a couple of stops at their different vocalist first album, but it’s the stuff from ‘Bright Companions’, ‘The Great News’ and ‘No House For Thee’ which will form their legacy. Every tune they chuck out is met with rabid feedback, every word sung, every riff rocked to. ‘Nails on the Blackboard’ delivers the pit something to jump around to with its bouncy crossover hardcore style chorus and ‘The Well’ crushes all with its menacingly evil heavy tone. Around the middle of the set they drop in ‘Broke Neck’, a bit of an instant classic punk rock song that has more to it than first listen reveals. This is kind of the nature of John Coffey - punk rock with depth, if you like.
When they start playing ‘Oh, Oh, Calamity’, the whole floor opens up ready for one last brutal wall of death collision. I foolishly get involved and pay the price. I still have bruises a week and a half later, but it was worth it- getting in the mix is fun, if not a bit dangerous these days. The youngsters don’t get any older, unlike me… Absolutely creamed in there.
The set contains a couple of covers towards the end, firstly Rage Against the Machines ‘Guerrilla Radio’. In May this year John Coffey played the entire soundtrack of Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 in a massive skatepark in Eindhoven, and it was absolutely awesome. So it was great to have a quick revisit of that night. The place goes so nuts that it would probably rival a reunited RATM’s crowd for sheer bonkersness. This is followed by a quick blast through Nirvanas ‘Breed’, with various guests playing from the other bands. Both songs were a cool little bonus that just added to the joyous side of the atmosphere.
The bittersweet vibes weren’t hiding far away though: the set draws to a close with ‘Eagle Chasing Flies’ and an encore of what you could consider the hit, ‘Romans’. One last two and a half minutes of total carnage ensues as the reality of this being the last ever song to be played live by John Coffey hangs heavy.
Unfortunately a lot of the emotion of tonight’s final farewell is lost on me as someone who doesn’t understand Dutch but the music speaks for itself, as does the bow of all band and crew at the end. People are so unready for this all to end that they are fitting in one last stage dive to a bow.
As the PA pumps out Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’ followed by Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’, the emotion is visibly too much for some. I took a photo of a young lady’s sure to be treasured setlist to help me write this review (even though they went rogue and barely stuck to it), the poor girl was in bits, tears streaming down her face. All in all this was a suitably manic send off for a fantastic band that will be missed by many. It’s kind of cool that this band was not even heard by some, but absolutely adored by others. It’s a sign of how truly great they we’re, and what so many people missed out on.