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Review: VANT – 13/4/19 – Think Tank?, Newcastle

15/04/2019

VANT returned to Newcastle with a spectacular welcoming, performing at Think Tank? on the 13th of April. Here’s how it went down…

When VANT announced ‘The Last Days of Punk Tour’, many people took that as a signal that they were done. Finished. Over. However, late last year we learnt that VANT’s ‘Last Days of Punk Tour’ was less of a hiatus or break-up but more a signal that things were going to be different. The punk sound would be left in the closet for the time being, but the punk spirit would remain firmly at the core. Now with pink hair, a white suit and a new brand of hip-hop-pop-punk, Mattie Vant returned to Newcastle as the prodigal son, this time on his own, and showed the world his true artistic excellence.

It’s a friendly atmosphere inside Think Tank?, certainly the busiest it’s been in a while. With everybody chatting and mingling awaiting the evening’s main event to arrive and kick off a new era. There was pent-up energy in the room as a mixed crowd of youngsters ready to mosh and old-timers, either family-friends of the hometown boy or witnesses of the pioneering punk scene eager to see what the new lad can do, waited in anticipation.

Aptly titled ‘The First Days of Freedom’, this tour sees Mattie Vant as the main act. With a new backing band, including Superfood-touring-bassist, Al Costelloe, he’s very much the main man nowadays. He has full creative control and the live shows only benefit from this. Whilst many of the tracks played tonight from VANT’s debut LP remain unchanged, the thrashing punk sounds giving the audience what they wanted, giving them the chance to release repressed energy that’s been building since 2017 in wild and frantic mosh pits, Mattie is sure to put his own twists on some old classics.

Opening with a fully acoustic rendition of ‘Time & Money’, he gets the crowd on side early, ensuring to play only a smattering of new material. This is followed by a cool, calm version of ‘Karma Seeker’ on the piano. These alternate versions demonstrating his true artistry whilst also offering the crowd one last chance to catch their breath before the ante was upped, the tempo sent into overdrive, the crowd into a frenzy. Once the band joined him and a new, previously unheard song was over, it was business as usual. ‘The Answer’ ignited the room with its raucous intro, literal goosebumps appearing on the back of my neck – you don’t realise how much you’ve missed an artist until you finally see them live again and past memories flood your brain. Whilst ‘Birth Certificate’, a song dating back to the start of the primary VANT era, provided another moment of nostalgia.

The newer, recently released material received a warm reception. ‘Propaganda Machine’ and ‘Thank Lucifer’ were welcomed with open arms from people on shoulders struggling not to bang their heads on the low ceiling. Sounding more anthemic and bullish live, the basslines reverbing across the venues’ wooden floor. But all in all, the crowd was there for the older material. Ending on the brash ‘Do You Know Me?’ following a chorus of ‘Fog on the Tyne’, he exited for a brief break before returning for a slow-motion version of ‘Parasite’, which channelled the very song it was modelled on, ‘Johnny B. Goode’. Meanwhile, ‘Fly-by Alien’, VANT’s traditional opening number signalled the end, with Mattie infinitely grateful for the loving reception he received from his home crowd.    

The sadness felt after hearing of VANT’s hiatus into 2017 has all been forgotten now, as the brains behind the project had stepped forward and claimed the band as his own. With his artistic qualities and desire to change the world with an eclectic range of music, Mattie Vant’s determination to reach the top can only be admired, but you need more than just determination to reach the very top and on his hometown return, Mattie Vant proved that something more.

JOHNNY ROGERSON

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