After battling the northern winds of Bristol (we’d forgotten to factor the slight temperature change into our wardrobe choices), the sight of the O2 Academy was a welcome one, especially once we realised we weren’t going to be surrounded by fourteen year olds – as is sometimes the danger when seeing bands that you’ve listened to since your emo days.
The first support was a five-piece named Dead! who seemed to get better as they went on. The first few songs were a tad heavy, but they really came into their own with a song entitled ‘Skin’, stating the inspiration to be a club that they hate but always end up going to – TP anyone? What they lacked in finesse, they surely made up for in showmanship: the front man’s dancing was a wonder to behold! The cuteness factor overloaded when they admitted that they couldn’t afford the venue’s merch concession and that we could find their van outside after the gig.
I was slightly disappointed to realise that there was a second support act, Dinosaur Pile-Up, (is there a D theme going on here?) but my frustration was allayed by the sheer talent of the trio. Quite obviously well-practiced and polished, their pop-punk, easy-to-learn lyrics made for some absolute bangers. Nirvana-esque even down to frontman Matt Bigland’s blonde mop, don’t be surprised if you see these three on the Slamdunk line-up soon.
Finally, the main event – but boy, did they keep us waiting. They began with some atmospheric, rather creepy introduction music as they walked on stage, which was reprised periodically throughout the night. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this, but as soon as they launched into ‘Ashes, ashes’, I was in awe. Starting the concert off with the same song as their new album, All These Countless Nights which was released in January this year, was a clever move as it got the crowd into the mood for what was to come, whilst we still clung to the hope of hearing some of the oldies but goodies. Next up was ‘Trigger’, another stand out from the new album.
The best of the old songs were undoubtedly ‘22’ and ‘The Past Six Years’. With ‘22’, you could feel the crowd buzzing with elation and singing along at the tops of their lungs, accompanied for a myriad of lights which really added to the whole show. ‘The Past Six Years’, a personal favourite of mine, really built the atmosphere of the night. James Veck-Gilodi made our sing along even more necessary with the admission of a cold that “sucks dick, and not in a good way” meaning he had trouble hitting the low notes – don’t worry, James, I’ll come to your rescue. You’d expect most rock bands to be drinking beer or hard liquor on stage during a performance, but no: good old Brit James was drinking tea with a shout of “How rock and roll is that, Bristol?”.
Gilodi [had] a cold that “sucks dick, and not in a good way”
The set list cleverly interspersed both the old, new and more unknown, although they did miss out my favourite song (‘Everybody’s Dancing and I Want To Die’ from the 2013 album Old Souls if anyone is interested). It was interesting to notice how well all the songs fitted together, making it obvious that their style has changed very little in the past few years – they’ve really cemented their niche, yet don’t run out of incredibly clever lyrics and fun beats.
To round off the performance they ended with ‘Hunstanton Pier’ – the beautiful lyrics and melody were echoed by the entire crowd in a way that gave me goose bumps. Juxtaposed against the rest of the evening it could have been seen as out of place, but where some of the other songs had been rather drowned out by the bass, Veck-Gilodi’s admittedly weak voice actually had a chance to shine. It’s a pity he had a cold, but he was a trouper about it so I’ll give him credit for even getting out of bed with the amount he was coughing by the end.
The encore brought the pace right back up again, with one old song, ‘Boston Square’, and two new ones, ‘Sing’ and ‘Pensacola, 2013’. While I loved the first two, I found ‘Pensacola, 2013’ to be an odd choice to end the whole show. Veck-Gilodi professed that it was his favourite song they’d ever written but I’m sorry to say I don’t agree. It was quite nice symmetry to end with the final song from the album as they had begun with the first, yet ultimately, I believe it would’ve been better to have ended on a high with ‘Sing’.
I can’t let that minor detail get in the way of what was truly a fantastic show. The rest of the songs were well chosen (though if I could have my way, they would have played all three of their latest albums in full) and the atmosphere was electric, aided by an awesome light show. Hopefully next time James won’t have a “layer of phlegm” as he so delightfully put it, stopping his voice from shining through.