I went to The Cluny in Newcastle on the 30th November 2005 to check out a band called Forward Russia knowing absolutely nothing about them. By the time they were half way through their first track, 13, I knew that I liked them and when Whiskas listed their next few gigs towards the end of the set I was already planning which ones to go and see next. And now 24 Forward Russia gigs later I’m at the Brudenell in Leeds to see them again on the 30th November exactly 8 years to the day later for gig number 26. This gig is a one off, having split up after playing the Brainwash III Festival (also at the Brudenell) on 17 October 2008, only agreeing to get back together again to play a gig to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Brudenell.
After an electrifying support set from fellow Leeds band This Et Al (who had also reformed specially for this gig) Forward Russia took to the stage to the theme from Cheers at about 10:20, a nod to the Brudenell for being such a fantastic venue. The place was packed, tickets had sold out in less than a day when they were put on sale on the 9th September and expectation was very high.
Whiskas started the intro to ’15 part 1′ and the mosh pit exploded into life extending over pretty much the whole floor. Tom was weaving and gyrating all round the stage wrapping himself up in the mic lead which caused a few problems with an intermittent connection causing the vocals to drop out now and again but a quick change to the spare mic halfway through the track sorted that out. Whiskas got the intro to ’12’ right on the second attempt and the mosh pit got even more frenzied as they powered through at breakneck speed. Tom was feeling his age with all the jumping and writhing round the stage as he started complaining about his bad back after just the second song before moving on to the first track to be taken from Life Processes, ‘A Shadow is a Shadow is a Shadow’. Tom swapped mics again before ‘Eighteen’ and the vocals were a lot lower in the mix for this track, at times I could barely hear them compared to the rest of the set when if anything they were a bit too high. He swapped back to mic 1 for the slow build up to their first non numerically named track ‘Don’t be a Doctor’ and the vocals were back to being loud and distinct again as the song reached it’s climax but unfortunately the mic gremlins also returned with some more small vocal dropouts half way through. Another change of mic to a hastily repaired one and it was back to Life Processes for ‘Don’t Reinvent What You Don’t Understand’. The highlight of the gig for me came next, the thunderous intro to ’15 part 2′, a magnificent track live that in the last 10 years or so I have only ever seen bettered once which was when the hugely missed Chapman Family played Into the Breach as the opening track of their set at The Independent, Sunderland on 8th December 2012.
It was time to take a breather now so the band paused for a minute or so to have a drink before the Katie/Tom duet for the build up into ’16’, another magnificent track and the one that I really really wanted them to play. The whole crowd were chanting with Katie before Tom launched into the track proper. In the lull before the next track, Katie thanked everyone who had travelled a long way to get to the gig, Tom followed up by asking how many people were from Leeds and a few people cheered, then he asked how many people are not from Leeds and there was a huge roar. I’d travelled from near Newcastle myself but there were a lot of people who had travelled much further than me to get there.
‘Breaking Standing’ was next and the crowd surfing started, a few people managed to get on to the stage before being led smartly off by security who weren’t even letting people jump back into the crowd from the stage. ‘Gravity and Heat’ followed with more crowd surfing but people were getting really tired now due to the intensity of the mosh pit and basically couldn’t be bothered to support the surfers any more. Tom started taking the piss out of the crowd surfers saying “Who said you’re only as old as you feel, well I feel pretty fucking old right now” which got a good laugh from the audience. Then it was time for the normal set ending with the crowd going wild to ‘9’ then the usual set closer ’11’.
The band left the stage now with the keyboard playing a loop of the intro to 13. After a couple of minutes to grab fresh drinks, they came back onstage and Katie asked “Do you want a few more”, they didn’t wait for an answer just got straight on with 13. A bit of a speech from Tom followed about wanting to thank so many people but not break up the set with saying thank you after every single track, then the next song was dedicated to all the people who used to post on their old forum. This got a huge cheer, from many more people than were regulars on the forum then Katie started the intro to 1, a track I’ve only seen once live before, at Fibbers in York on 16 April 2006. This was the only b-side they played, I was hoping for 4 myself or maybe even 10 but it was still great to hear it again. It was Whiskas turn to thank the crowd now saying they couldn’t believe the reaction to the gig with it selling out so quickly then it was time for the last song of the night, Spanish Triangles. Tom finally got in the crowd and did some crowd surfing of his own but the mosh pit was way too big and violent to do his trademark wander through the crowd while singing.
A triumphant return for Forward Russia, a simply stunning gig with a wide range of tracks from the very earliest to the most recent in a huge set which lasted for 84 minutes. All the reaction I have seen and heard to this has been overwhelmingly positive, everyone that has commented on it thought it was fantastic. I’m sure there will be many more excellent reviews of this gig appearing all over the net both in piddly little blogs like this one to national publications and everything inbetween.
The cake that was presented to Nathan before the gig was taken round everyone in the Brudenell to take a piece, it was a really good chocolate cake and even the guest beer was Dark Side of the Moose, an outrageously good dark beer that has won a list of awards longer than my arm, from the Purple Moose brewery in Wales.
Everything, literally everything was right for this phenomenal gig, rock music really doesn’t get any better than this.
This was supposed to be a single one off gig to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Brudenell, the reaction to this gig has been so overwhelmingly good I’ll be surprised if the band can resist the temptation to take this gig on tour. I for one can’t wait to see them again, and I suspect there are a fair few others out there who think the same.
Finally a huge thank you to Nathan who has built up an incredible venue that has hosted some of the best gigs I have ever seen. I’m close to being a regular here and I live about 90 miles away so every gig I attend requires a 180 mile round trip. Yes, The Brudenell really is that good.
The band recorded audio of this gig on the night and have just made it available as an official release at this link:
It only costs £6 so go on and buy it, it’s a superb reminder of just how good this gig was and how badly this band is missed.