Cancer Bats and Comeback Kid Didn't Let Up for a Second in London

Rum Runners, March 17

With A Wilhelm Scream, Specks

Photo: Brass Ring Imagery

BY Paul DikaPublished Mar 18, 2022

When Cancer Bats and Comeback Kid kicked off their co-headlining tour last night — Thursday, March 17 — at Rum Runners in London, ON, there was something unfamiliar in the air: normalcy. Having originally announced this run of Ontario dates last August, the tour as promised felt like a long shot. But with restrictions being lifted and more musicians beginning to hit the road, the show went off without a hitch, and the sold-out London crowd was ready for what the bands delivered.

Following a set by local punk act Specks, melodic hardcore vets A Wilhelm Scream took to the stage. The Massachusetts band brought their signature breakneck speed punk, highlighted by duelling shredding guitars. Lead singer Nuno Pereira expressed his appreciation to the crowd for continuing to show up whenever the band rolls through Canada, before launching into their Ruiner hit "Me Vs Morrissey in the Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)." The five-piece were incredibly tight and brought the energy necessary to prepare the crowd — most of whom showed up in time for the majority of their set — for the night's headliners.

As the lights dimmed, Comeback Kid soundtracked their arrival with Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" — a choice that was undeniably apropos for the evening, as the build-up to live music's return in London reached a crescendo. And when the iconic drum fill arrived, the music cut as the band launched into the title track from their newest album, Heavy Steps, bringing an eruption of energy that instantly got the crowd moving. With gang-vocal choruses, a breakdown that made the floor feel like it could cave in, and lyrics that echoed the desire and struggle to persist when the odds are overwhelming, "Heavy Steps" served as the perfect opener for the band's first show in Southwestern Ontario in over two years.

From there, the hardcore vets didn't let up. There was very little banter, as there was an urgency to fit as many songs into the setlist as possible, as if there was a well of energy building inside that was ready to be unleashed. When there were breaks in the action, lead vocalist Andrew Neufeld expressed his gratitude for the band picking back up where they left off and acknowledging those that were lost in the last two years, before launching into the anthemic "G. M. Vincent and I."

The rest of the set covered a little bit of everything from their lengthy discography. Comeback Kid mixed in old favourites such as "All in a Year" and "False Idols Fall" with newer setlist staples "Do Yourself a Favour," "Wasted Arrows" and certified stomper "Absolute." The performance was backed by a mesmerizing light show that enhanced every blistering verse and breakdown. When the band launched into set closer "Wake the Dead," the stage dives and moshing multiplied, as fans of the hardcore outfit were given one final reminder of the band's longevity and consistency.

Everyone had about 20 minutes to collectively catch their breath before Cancer Bats took the stage. The band hit the ground sprinting, blowing away the London crowd with their signature blend of metal, hardcore and punk. Lead singer Liam Cormier and company were a few songs in before they stopped to catch their breath and formally address the crowd. Cormier and bassist Jaye Schwarzer took time to acknowledge their "519 roots," with Schwarzer pointing to the "E.O.A." shirt he was wearing before ripping it off and tossing it aside. When it was time to get back to playing songs, the band launched into "Hail Destroyer," the hit title track from their 2008 album, instantly setting off the crowd.

With the departure of co-founder Scott Middleton last fall, the Cancer Bats live lineup now features singer-songwriter Nick Sherman and Stephen Harrison (formerly of the Chariot, currently of Fever 333) on guitars. Both received warm welcomes from the crowd after Cormier graciously introduced them, and brought with them the stage performance and presence befitting a Cancer Bats performance.

Like Comeback Kid's set, Cancer Bats were sure to include hits old and new. "Bricks and Mortar" received another one of the larger reactions in the set, while the band's new single "Lonely Bong" from their upcoming album Psychic Jailbreak was met with enthusiasm by the crowd. Cormier seemed smitten by the crowd's eagerness to get back to shows, noticing the overwhelming number of people who had been there since the doors opened three hours earlier. 

The band included their huge cover of Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" towards the end of the set, which brought with it more dancing and movement. And while certain songs may have garnered a larger reaction than others, every member of the Bats brought their A game, never letting up for the duration of their hour-long set.

Both Cancer Bats and Comeback Kid set the tone for the entire tour, matching each other's levels of intensity, charisma and jubilation for being able to play shows in their home country once again. There were no signs of cobwebs or stumbling to find their footing; Comeback Kid and Cancer Bats picked up right where they left off.

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