Black turtlenecks and black t-shirts were the chosen attire for this alternative rock band; though their attire was not what gave The Boxer Rebellion their own justly earned chapter in the modern history of music. In 2009, they became the first unsigned band to break the Billboard Top 100 albums chart on a digital-only release. This release was their second album, Union. With an acclaimed live reputation (having opened for Lenny Kravitz and Gary Numan and having cameo roles in flicks such as Drew Barrymore’s Going the distance), The Boxer Rebellion returned to London to demonstrate as they are on the cusp of releasing their sixth album, Ghost Alive, that they still deserve a place in the history books.
What the Fuck. This song opened the set which is also the playout track on their forthcoming new album. This track was initially dropped towards the end of 2017 as part of the bands’ effort to help promote and support mental health charity CALM. A very poignant song in its own right felt more heartrending with the support of the cello against an acoustic backdrop. The band’s message to “Accept the gifts you’re given and accept it sends too soon” aroused the senses.
Let it Go, with its tenacious electro beat made a swift departure from the more organic sounding opener (not to be mistaken for the song of the same title taken the Frozen soundtrack and there was no stage crashing from any tiny Olaf’s despite the heavy snowfall which was pelting the area surrounding the venue.)
No Harm, the penultimate track of the setlist particularly reminded fans why the band had often been compared favourably to the Editors. Albeit mellower, there was a positive correlation with Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors. Here I Am, the latest single, was played beautifully as an acoustic rendition with organ keys and pounding kick drums.
Despite confessing that he had a cold; Nathan Nicholson’s vocals were peaking. His vocals and vocal style has definitely altered throughout the bands career, with their more recent materials sounding more like a combination of Nathan Willett (Cold War Kids), Dougy Mandagi (The Temper Trap) and Olly Knights (Turin Breaks) than Tom Yorke (Radiohead), whom he was compared to in the early years of their career. During the set, Nicholson also reflected happily on the early days of The Boxer Rebellion’s career when they played at The Metro in Oxford Street, describing the now defunct venue as a “cool shithole”.
The Boxer Rebellion, since their inception in 2001 have been able to experiment and create beautifully arranged acoustic songs as well as synthetic electro tracks which are the antithesis of the former. Some of their songs are more instant than others, occasionally fans respond with the occasional head nodding and sanguine movements, but The Boxer Rebellion had never written songs or offered live interpretations of their songs for stadiums; they were crafted for more intimate venues such as the Assembly Hall and this is just how their fan base likes it.