POD : London Highbury Garage

If Beelzebub supposedly has all the best tunes, then something is clearly amiss in tonight's drink-free temple...

A Christian [a]Linkin Park[/a]: whatever next? Surely it can only be nanoseconds before a Buddhist [a]Coral[/a], a Zoroastrian [a]So Solid Crew[/a] and the Hezbe-e-Islamic [a]Andrew WK[/a] are amongst us, preaching the power of prayer over mushrooms, materialism and Miller Lite.

Not that rock hasn’t always had its God-bothering element (Bono, after all, was pleading for clemency from his Holiness for years before he took up the job himself). It’s just that the nearest anyone from nu-metal has yet got to a humble, self-aware acceptance of higher forms came the night Fred Durst went ga-ga whilst judging the floorshow at Miss Nude America.

None of which means Payable On Death’s strident Christian beliefs should be held against them. Far from it.

After all, any band who’s got The Lord working for them as well as The Man are surely not to be, err, sniffed at.

Plus, with a platinum album (‘Satellite’) already chalked up in the States and a massive leap in interest since the Twin Towers fiasco (no, not Wembley, the other one) it seems that San Diego’s holiest could fast be becoming the world’s most sensible cult band. And besides, turning up at a sold out Garage to discover, for the first time in living memory, that the bar’s been closed down because of a power cut (or an Act Of God) necessitates that a sober assessment of P.O.D is pretty well mandatory.

“We’ve come a long way to be here” announces dreadlocked singer Sonny, tactfully ignoring the obligatory devil salutes which greet their arrival.

“We’re so proud to be in this punk rock town!” A sound not unlike the splitting of the atom combined with Hiroshima starts up. This appears to be the work of grinning, Buddha-ish guitarist Marcos, a man clearly familiar with the arcane art of stadium metal. ‘Boom’ is a cannibalistic sludge of [a]Limp Bizkit[/a]. ‘The Messanjah’ sees P.O.D stomp all over the [a]Alien Ant Farm[/a]. Strewth. For Christians, they’re pretty short on mercy.

There’s a pause. Marcos starts fiddling with his apocalyptically-inclined guitar pedals. Suddenly, the sonic cordite clears and Marcos is playing the most beautiful, choral guitar part outside of The Edge’s private New Year’s Day Mass. Sonny Sandoval, meanwhile, has stopped hurling himself and his five foot dreads across the stage, and is transfixed in a silent prayer to, one presumes, God. It then turns into killer track ‘Youth Of The Nation’ (complete with playground-chorus “We Are, We Are, the Youth Of the Nation!”) which is either the best [a]U2[/a]-meets-Wes Borland brain-mulch you’ll ever hear or so naff you could sell it to both [a]George Michael[/a] and Coca Cola, and still have some left over for the soundtrack to ‘Children In Need’.

“Urgh, your hands are all cold!’ declares Sonny as it finishes, momentarily stopping dread-shaking duties to high-five the massed converts stage front.

They then close with glorious new single ‘Alive’, which you can only hope is as big on celestial MTV as it is down here. Bedlam ensues.

Sonny synchronises the stage-divers to ensure they’re okay and sings the entire second verse eyeball-to-eyeball with one teenage disciple, who, by the look of rapture on his face, appears to have undergone some sort of religious transformation.

“God bless you all!” hollers Sonny above a sea of tangled arms and upturned legs. If Beelzebub supposedly has all the best tunes, then something is clearly amiss in tonight’s drink-free temple of Payable On Death. Looks like Old Nick is slipping.

Jason Fox