by Jacob Wingate-Bishop
There are moments in your life you know you’ll never forget. There’s just something about them, on a deeper, spiritual level, that even as they’re happening you’re certain will be immortalised in your brain, replaying amongst your synapses. There are good gigs. There are great gigs. And there are fucking great gigs. When American revolution rockers, The Last Internationale, rolled into Southampton on 21st April 2023 – on the penultimate stop of their UK tour – they only accepted the latter.
I’d first seen the band (the core of which consists of guitarist Edgey Pires and vocalist Delila Paz) in 2019, when they opened for the Cult at Portsmouth Guildhall. I knew then what a refreshing shot of punk rock they were to the system, but never did I imagine what it would be like watching them headline. They filled the Joiners to capacity, in numbers and energy, and by the last song of their set, it felt as if the walls had come down.
In promotion of their latest effort, a completely independent release entitled Running for a Dream, TLI embarked on a tour of the UK. Southampton saw Portsmouth-bred stoner rockers Trouble County and fellow Americans Taipei Houston kick things off to an electric start. Trouble County promised languishing blues riffs and dirty dirges dripping in whiskey and swamp water. Taipei Houston, meanwhile, were a fusion of old and new, melding classic punk with a mainstream twist. And both, undoubtedly, were some of the finest opening bands I’ve ever seen.
When The Last Internationale strolled onstage and took up their arms, the place was packed. Guitarist Pires couldn’t have looked more casual, in black shirt and jeans, while frontwoman Paz pranced about in leather and sequins, wielding the microphone as if infused with the power of an almighty god.
TLI opened their set with ‘Killing Fields’ and ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Indian Blood’ – cuts from their stomping debut, We Will Reign. Both packed the raw energy and political activism which make the duo what they are, and at once the venue was alive with a kind of revolutionary wattage.
The group offered up a few more picks from their first two releases before launching into tracks off the new album, Orwellian ‘1984’ and ‘Hero’, one of its best. Throughout, Paz leaned into the crowd, pointed fingers at the audience, and interacted with the room more than just about any other band I had seen. It was clear The Last Internationale were an act that didn’t believe in the imaginary line between act and audience. We were one and the same, and they knew how to show it.
After a few minutes adjusting the layout of the stage, Paz enjoyed a rare moment off her feet, behind the keyboard and delivering one of the group’s most beautiful releases, ‘Soul on Fire’. Then came the title track from Running for a Dream, which proved more poignant and more harrowing than even the studio dared to go.
‘Edith Groove’, the closing track from the new album and my undeniable favourite, shattered all expectations, replacing a disc-bound horn section with extra guitar from musical guest Carissa Johnson. But there was no time to bathe in the afterglow as we barrelled into ‘Wanted Man’, the definitive pinnacle of any Internationale sermon. By the end of this raucous number, Pires was tearing the strings from his guitar with fervent fingers, and we went straight into ‘Hard Times’. The band were unstoppable, a freight train of righteous anger and anti-management rhetoric, all packed up in wondrous noise.
For the last number, ‘Hit ‘em With Your Blues’, Paz invited several of the audience onstage, and closed out the show with unrivalled passion. Even the most nonchalant of shruggers threw their cups down to applaud, and the band left with dozens more supporters under their belt. Though the Joiners may be a small venue – especially when compared to Portsmouth Guildhall when last I saw the band – it was filled to capacity with that great, old rock ‘n roll energy. The kind, as Paz pointed out, you don’t really see anymore. Evangelist-like sermons were uttered with American drawl, and Hell was raised before our eyes. The Last Internationale have a long way to go before they can headline guildhalls and academies, but they have enough drive and distortion to fill a stadium. At last, the heart of rock ‘n roll is beating again, and these guys are the hundred-amp defibrillator.