Payable On Death / Hundred Reason - Manchester Palace Theatre  - 19.10.03

If there's one thing we've got to be thankful for, it's the fact we didn't have to suffer Daniel Bedingfield on the Manchester leg of the MTV Road To Europe Tour. The four city warm up for the main awards show in Edinburgh has seen Travis headline in London, the aforementioned Bedingfield in Birmingham while Suede will finish things off in Newcastle. Tonight though sees the return of two bands who have been missing in action, well recording studios at the very least, following up their hugely successful "Satellite" and "Ideas Above Our Station" albums respectively.

We first saw Hundred Reasons was back in the day while they were just a flailing indie band releasing records on the likes of Fierce Panda. 6 months passed and suddenly they were the saviours of British Rock and while we agreed there was still a sense they weren't being entirely serious. There always seemed to be an arched eyebrow after every clenched fist into the air and they were certainly displaying more ironic rock tendencies than the Darkness could even muster. "Ideas Above Our Station" was pretty good description of what I felt was at times was a very patchy album, moments of genius split between weak moments that belonged in the toilet circuit they'd previously been playing 12 months previous. Tonight is the first time we've seen the band in nearly 18 months and time has served them well as they truly deserve the tag of "Britain's Best Rock Band". Melodies intertwine with crunching descending chords while Doran stamps, screams and wrecks the mic. Hell the band even do a live bootleg version of Public Enemy's "Bring The Noize". Within a couple of songs it doesn't matter that the venue is normally used to housing the likes of Grease The Musical and 2nd rate comics such as Brian Conley, the seating is ignored for the 1 metre space of land in front of the stage. The rest of us up in the circle somehow manage to avoid DVT due to the fact that regardless of the 2 inch space our legs have it's impossible not to move to former singles "I'll Find You", "If I Could" and "Falter". New single "The Great Test" offers just another reason why these guys will be taking it to the next level in 2004.

P.O.D are a band who we love and loathe with equal passion. The very idea of rock n roll behaviour is so cliched and with the likes of the Strokes and the Vines trying to live off some past idea of rock and roll mythology surely it makes sense that the most rock and roll thing you can do is buck the trend. P.O.D, or to give them their full title Payable On Death, do the most rock thing by being a Christian Rock band in a time when church attendance's are at an all time low and religion is frowned upon my 90% of people. That's why I love POD - they do what they want and they don't give a f*ck. On the other hand you've got to face it that apart from "Alive", "Youth Of The Nation" and new single "Will You" there isn't a tune in their catalogue that doesn't follow the nu-metal blueprint. Just one look at the crowd and you see an audience who has the regulatory dress code, but it all seems strangely courteous rather than a a baying rock crowd.

At the MTV Awards 2004 its easy to identify from tonight's show exactly who will be taking home the gongs and it certainly ain't POD.

Alex McCann

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