In 1998, Swedish hardcore heroes Refused disbanded. "We will never play together again and we will never try to glorify or celebrate what was," they declared in an open letter titled "Refused are Fucking Dead.” Last night, at Manhattan's Terminal 5, Refused came back to life for a stop on their summer-long reunion tour. Later this summer they’ll visit some of the biggest -- and best paying-- music festivals around the world. While these facts are hard to reconcile, the reunion is hardly out of character for Refused, a band known as much for their internal contradictions, outspoken sloganeering and sweeping political statements as for their complex, blisteringly heavy songs. So a band that once said, "Capitalism is, indeed, organized crime" was now charging fans nearly $50 to see them play. But you couldn't say those fans didn't get their money's worth.
Tearing through numbers from their 1998 classic The Shape of Punk to Come, the band fired on all cylinders, starting and stopping tightly while front man Dennis Lyxzén tossed his lanky frame around the stage. When they launched into "New Noise," 3,000 voices yelled out "Can I scream?" in unison as hardcore lifers crowd-surfed toward the stage. During "Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine," Lyxzén stood on top of a stage monitor and peering out into the crowd, issued a characteristically grand pronouncement: "Rather be forgotten/ Than remembered for giving in.” Say what you will about the reunion, but Refused certainly haven’t been forgotten.