Home-schooled and raised on a diet of the Ramones, Misfits and Zeppelin by their manager father, Missouri based three-piece Radkey have earned many plaudits for their live shows.  They’re in town for a one-off UK appearance to celebrate the conclusion of the recording of their debut album in Sheffield, and as such the show is pitched as a relatively low-key affair and the venue is only half-full.  Having missed their legendary performance here last year when the entire band was crowd surfed out of the venue and deposited into Oldham Street, I’m a little surprised to see tickets still available for tonight’s show, and I wonder if the hype is deserved.

It turns out it is.

On record the threesomes ability with the core elements of melody, velocity and harmony doesn’t disguise any of their obvious influences, but they’re here tonight to whip up a party, and they’re amped to such a degree that bassist Isaiah is literally bouncing up and down waiting to get on stage.  Once warmed up, and with a minimum of fuss, they launch into ‘Out Here In My Head’ and ignite the touch-paper:  It’s a pure pop-punk stormer, and the regular opener for their live set, and in seconds the formerly quiet crowd is moving as the waves of energy wash over us from the stage. Radkey set their adrenalin levels to new heights, and every sinew and vein is set on end as they rocket through one of the best rock and roll sets you’ll see.
Singer guitarist Dee Radke is both mystery and menace, appearing the most distant of the band, but is in possession of a soulful baritone croon that that belies his sleight frame.  His voice provides the beating heart in their sound, but his guitar cuts through like an icepick, and he tears up the guitar solos with a laser focus. Meanwhile his brother Isaiah throws up enough rock moves and gleeful histrionics to shake the proverbial stick at.  And the great thing is it never seems fake or overly contrived: In the teeming hormone and e-number addled punk-rock universe Radkey have created, this is what you do, and they do it like no-one else.They move up through the gears, and the pace is relentless.  Though the material sticks to the loud and catchy ethic, it’s a feisty, power packed avalanche of riffs and shouts, and enough to revive any jaded pundit.  I find myself smiling at their sheer joy of playing and playing well. Since their last outing in Manchester I’m told by friends they’ve toughened up their sound but also let it hang looser.

Feed my brain sees bassist Isaiah writhing on the floor, doing the crab (but not missing a note) and prompting some serious speculation whether he’ll be able to get back up on his feet.  But youth on his side, and he springs to his feet and into another Townsend-esque contortion.  You can’t forget how young they are:  Introducing ‘Eviltor’ as a song “about a evil villain who does evil shit”, you get a glimpse into the youthful minds, and are reminded that many kids their age are stuck in their bedrooms gaming or doing whatever teenage boys do.  These guys are 4,000 miles from home, introducing ‘Hunger Pain’ as a song to dance AND fuck to, and then blasting out an anti-racist anthem like ‘N.I G.G.A (Not OK)’: they show they are growing up fast and growing up smart.
New songs such as ‘Love Spills’ and ‘Parade It’ are as basic as basic comes, but catchy as hell.  Older material like ‘Cat and Mouse’ sees them crashing helter-skelter though all the moves you’d expect.  By this point they’re whipping the locals into a frenzy, and everyone in the room is smiling.
Honest songwriting and bone-crushing tunes, but played loose and limber with no small amount of style:  Radkey don’t do low-key.

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