When NOFX announced that they’d play a regular mix of their back catalogue on a Saturday gig and then Punk in Drublic in full the following day, the choice of which to attend was painfully obvious. Released in 1994, Punk in Drublic went gold in the USA after selling 500,000 copies and eventually went on to shift a thigh-slapping 1,000,000 units in total worldwide.
The former show sold out completely, but there were still tickets left for Sunday, which seemed odd given the facts above. There were actually quite a few unsold tickets for Sunday’s concert – the O2 Academy Brixton couldn’t be more than half-full, if that, and the sparse crowd didn’t do much for the weary Sunday night atmosphere.
The excitement generated by a true punk band always boils down to energy and as NOFX took the stage and started pounding through a random melange of tunes, for a band pushing 50 on the final night of an eight-date UK tour, it quickly became quite evident that there wasn’t much left in the tank.
Sure, they were there in the flesh: frontman Fat Mike with his chunky bright red Mohawk and protruding beer-belly, and then of course there’s guitarist Melvin, shirtless with his signature shoulder-length blue dreads. An extra member who plays keyboard on this tour has a rainbow flag draped in front of his instrument – presumably a nod to the recent legalisation of gay marriage in the USA and perhaps because the band is from San Francisco, where there is a large gay population.
NOFX did play the whole of Punk in Drublic, as promised, but not back to back and in sequence, which would have been exponentially more powerful. Instead, a track was played here and there throughout the performance. Punk in Drublic got totally lost in the set list and thus its prominence was neutered.
The bandmates joked about in between songs and provided beer showers to the crowd here and there. There were some attempts to be funny, but those generally fell flat. Since the introduction of bands like Steel Panther, with their topical, deplorable and well-rehearsed comedy, NOFX’s kind of improvised humour comes across far weaker.
The lead single from Punk in Drublic, “Don’t Call Me White”, is noticeably the only real high point of the evening and the five-piece perform it insanely with passion and enthusiasm. For a moment there, the audience is transported back to 1994. By the end of the gig, nobody could be blamed if they felt like that they were robbed of a real NOFX show. Maybe the night before was better.
Punk’s not dead; it was just a bit lacklustre that night.