Arms aloft, microphone swinging precariously in his grasp, Frank Carter stands tall, balanced upon a sea of raised hands in the middle of the floor of Leeds University’s Stylus venue, some distance away from the stage.
For a moment, the platform beneath him shifts and the former Gallows man almost topples, but he grimly remains upright. “Are you ready to dance?” he screams, to a boisterous response – and then, to the mace-like, bludgeoning swing of Juggernaut, he is pulled into the vortex of surging bodies as the crowd erupts into various circle pits.
Few people in punk can hold an audience like Carter. Lithe, tattooed and carrot-topped, he is a one-man-force of nature, austere and aggressive in equal measure, Hertfordshire’s most politically-charged son outside of Enter Shikari. His show in Leeds forms part of his largest headline tour to date too, a step-up to larger venues following the release of the radio-friendly Modern Ruin, his second album with current group the Rattlesnakes.
Carter’s dalliance with poppier inflections is nothing new; his former band Pure Love presided over buffed-up garage rock for the majority of their brief existence. But in the Rattlesnakes, he has found the outfit who best strike the balance between the visceral hardcore of Fangs and the bouncy alt-rock of Wild Flowers. Cast in bright, chunky primary colours, and complimented by a keyboardist, they are ferociously slick and polished, throwing out the blistering stoner-rock of Modern Ruin and Sabbath-esuqe riffage of Paradise behind their bow-legged frontman, who prowls and howls with a gritty menace. It is brash, fierce and invigorating throughout.
All eyes return to Carter throughout however, be it during an impassioned speech about how concerts should be a “safe space” for women without fear of sexual harassment, or when he growls out the tender balladry of Jackals. His urgency is fascinating, a tireless crusader who seldom stops to pause for breath between his rousing, frantic sermons. By the time the Rattlesnakes close with the barbed I Hate You, he is ragged, exhausted and triumphant. Underneath the veneer of shiny licks and rainbow lighting, Frank Carter remains a defiantly dynamic live performer. It would seem you can take the boy out of punk; but you can’t take punk out of the boy.