SO.CO Team

1 month ago

Live: Benefits hammer Nails home in Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough Town Hall

Featured Photo

Benefits rounded off their UK tour, and an all-conquering year, with a homecoming show in Middlesbrough just before Christmas, but as ever with the new face of British punk, it’s rarely merry, but it is cathartic as all hell. 

“There’s a new found spring in your goose-step” - the words to Shit Britain hang in the air above the already feverish audience. The Right (both alt and traditional) have long been in this band’s sights. They say that the one good thing that comes out of Tory governments are great punk bands pushing back, and if that’s the case, then we need to thank Cameron, Johnson, May, Braverman, Sunak and the rest for delivering us Benefits, if nothing else. 

With a clutch of ‘album of the year’ nods for debut long-player Nails from a host of esteemed music publications, and a string of sold out shows on this this tour, it would be understandable for Benefits to rest on their laurels a little, but this is no last-day-of-school party. The band are just as hard-hitting as ever, and if anything, Kingsley Hall seems even more determined to drive his point home with every snarled syllable and keenly observed lyric. 

Tonight’s encore opens with a menacingly ominous, drone filled take on The Chemical Worker’s Song, written in 1964 by local folk stalwart Ron Angel. Delivered with genuine menace by fellow Teessider Ben Muriel, as the Benefits frontman looks on. It sums up the show tonight perfectly. This isn’t about Benefits, Hall, Muriel, or even, really, the music. It’s about the people, those packed into the Town Hall’s crypt, and those outside, the ones just surviving, the ones struggling and the ones succeeding. They all get a mention tonight, and they all play their part in the visceral live experience that is a Benefits show. 

Benefits are the sound of Britain on the ropes but coming out swinging. As living standard tumble, as fascism continues its seemingly inexorable creep into everyday life, they are the sound of a country fighting back. And we need them.  

Words and photos: Thomas Jackson