Category Archives: Live Reviews

Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls: Live at O2 Academy, Sheffield (19/11/15)

As fans of all ages poured into the sold out venue, anticipation steadily mounted for some of rock’s most celebrated live musicians, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. Although the night is to celebrate Frank’s sixth album Positive Songs for Negative People, some sport shirts from previous tours, proof that Frank’s ever-growing carbon footprint and notoriously astounding live performances pay off – clearly, Sheffield O2 is in for a night that will leave fans wanting more.

First to grace the stage is Will Varley, the seemingly hairier, acoustic guitar-wielding cousin of comedian Louis CK. Launching into the marvellously cynical Advert Soundtrack, Varley employed hilarious lyrics and gritty charm in order to seize the attention of the adoring crowd. Throwing in hard-hitting political songs alongside rib-breaking tunes such as The Self-Checkout Shuffle, Varley is a welcome breath of fresh air on the scene and this is hopefully just the beginning for the endearingly sceptical folk singer.

Skinny Lister burst on stage in a fit of gang vocals, accordions and furious strumming of strings. This Is War was a perfect opener – loud, vivacious and full of energy. This vigour remained throughout their set with front-woman Lorna Thomas dancing wildly on stage and Dan Grey crowd surfing whilst clutching onto his double bass. Trouble on Oxford Street was a highlight along with the crowd-raising John Kanaka, and the crowd were left in anticipation for Frank to place the cherry on top of what had already been a wildly entertaining evening.

Turner began his 1789th show as he meant to go on: loud, robust and thunderous. Opener Eulogy raised every hand, opened every mouth, and was roared back at the grinning songster with a passionate vigour that can only be found at a Frank Turner show. Embarking on a hefty 28-song setlist is no easy feat for the most accomplished live performers but Turner managed this effortlessly, expertly weaving in and out of ripened material and new releases, anthemic crowd pleasers and solemn solos. Wessex Boy earned an ear-splitting appreciation from the crowd and fans willingly allowed themselves to be tied into Turner’s ridiculous calls for star jumps during the chorus of the undoubtedly popular Recovery. The on stage quips between Frank and The Sleeping Souls immersed fans into a fiercely competitive battle of which half of the venue would be the most energetic throughout the night, and everyone obliged in sitting down and standing up to Photosynthesis.

The elated mood was momentarily punctuated at Frank’s mention of the previous week’s attacks in Paris. He dedicated St Christopher is Coming Home to his friend Nick Alexander, telling the crowd to ‘value what you have, take care of each other and put the petty bullshit aside.’ The crowd were just as chillingly silent during his tear-jerking solo of Song For Josh. It’s a testament to the fans that they allowed Frank to have these touching moments of grief with a polite, knowing stillness before erupting into a frenzy of supportive cheers.

Perhaps the most magical thing about the evening was that the entire venue was united under Turner’s thumb. The tireless energy which both fans and performers poured into the set was almost tangible, and this was underpinned with closer Four Simple Words. A crowdsurfing Frank joined frenzied fans in riotously culminating the evening and not a single person stood still as the songster left the stage to a deafening rumble of cheers. It’s clear that Turner has perfected the art of live performances – not a single face leaving the O2 embraced the cold November air without a sweaty forehead and a satisfied grin, anticipating Frank’s inevitable seventh album when they get to do this all over again.

It was a pop-punk fan’s wet dream as the most exciting up and coming bands from all corners of the world joined under one roof to play good music to an angst-ridden crowd, and the excitement and unity within the venue as Trophy Eyes rolled onto the stage was tangible. Though they only had small clusters of fans dotted in the audience, the Australian newbies had a following as loyal as their better-known kin 5 Seconds of Summer, singing every word and shooting their fists in the air to fan favourites such as Hourglass and In Return. Undoubtedly the heaviest band of the night, they certainly created enough heat to combat the icy January winds in which fans had queued for hours.

Seaway were by far the best support act of the evening, proudly flying the Canadian flag with pride through their hit Sabrina the Teenage Bitch. As increasing numbers of the crowd bubbled with activity and new waves of fans surfed over the barrier,Seaway played brilliantly, and recent single Shy Guys earned a stunning reaction from a crowd of ever growing fans. The boys kept energy levels high and excitement brimming, and even as final support act Knuckle Puck graced the stage the audience never grew restless – Neck Deep chose their support acts well, and as Knuckle Puck sauntered through their set, not one person stood moodily in the corners waiting for the headliners. All eyes were on the Illinois quintet and newer songs such as Oak Street gained a reaction just as emphatic as aged track No Good.

At last, Neck Deep strolled on stage. It was as if a slow-boiling kettle had finally peaked – the crowd that had simply simmered throughout the evening exploded, and those that weren’t thoroughly engaged in mosh pits or crowd surfing were submerged in the torrent of foam fingers tossed to fans from the balcony. Kicking off their spectacular set with Losing Teeth, a highlight from their debut album Wishful Thinking, not a single person remained silent, and the infectious energy of the band rolled in waves throughout the crowd. For a band that’s only two years old, Neck Deep have certainly amassed a large and loyal following, and as they played their entire discography bar a couple of songs, the united voice of the crowd resonated throughout. Tracks from their first EP Rain In July were executed with as much passion and fervour as more established singles such as Growing Pains and Crushing Grief (No Remedy), but the highlight of their entire performance was ultimate fan favourite A Part of Me. Dedicated to a fan that sadly could no longer be with us, vocalist Ben Barlow requested that the crowd sing in their honour, to which every pair of lungs obliged. Guest vocalist Laura Whiteside joined the band on stage for the truly moving performance, but both voices were threatened to be drowned out by the 1100 strong crowd. The sentimental touches continued into the encore, which allowed the evening to end solemnly with their tender track Candour. Still, the reaction Neck Deep manage to illicit from the crowd was one just as resounding as if they had finished on a more upbeat note.

Despite their modern twist on the genre, Neck Deep managed to bring out everything that’s great in pop punk, and for an hour it was as if you’d stepped into the early 00’s. The band have never lost their humility, even noting how flattered they were that bootleggers were selling counterfeit merchandise outside the venue. And after all, that’s what pop punk is about – no judging, no standards, just a bunch of teenagers united in the fact that they all love a band of misfits that own too many pairs of cargo shorts.

LIGHTS: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 26/1/15 [Review]

Here in the UK we have a love/hate relationship with Canada (we haven’t yet forgiven them for Justin Bieber), but electropop queen LIGHTS is one of its many treasures. Hitting the Great British shores last week with K. Flay, she embarked on an almost sold-out tour – and she was mind-blowing.

American hip-hop artist K. Flay probably isn’t the support act people expected when they walked through the doors of the Brudenell Social Club, but they soon found themselves bobbing along to the chilled out tunes from Life As A Dog, her debut album that she released last year. Her set primarily consisted of soft rapping, live drums, a keyboard and pre-recorded synth, a combination that worked surprisingly well. However, a lot of songs sounded disappointingly similar and with little fans in the audience and even littler interaction with the crowd, K. Flay couldn’t evoke the reaction that was sorely needed to kick start the evening – but no one was expecting a standing ovation, no matter how talented she may be.

With a performance that contrasted sharply with the softer, more relaxed tones of K. Flay, LIGHTS graced the stage and immediately kicked off the set with the intimate Muscle Memory. Perhaps a sit-down song wasn’t the best choice of entry as the crowd were still floundering, but following track Toes certainly got the crowd on their – ahem – feet. A song from her second album Siberia, it’s clearly a track which fans had waited years to see live, and it’s great to see LIGHTS revelling in the reaction. Engaging in a little crowd interaction, she reminisces on the last time she was in Leeds five years ago at The Cockpit (may it rest in peace), before kicking into the next song. She seems to have a natural modest stage presence, humble yet somehow self-assured – maybe it’s the bright red military style-jacket that adds to her confident image.

Without the manipulation of recording, LIGHTS’s voice is astounding, carrying the resonance and vitality that simply cannot be captured on tape. It’s almost illusory the way she holds every note perfectly, shown especially in Running with the Boys, the video for which was premiered that day. Saying that this song makes her feel young again, she engages the band and the crowd in a discussion of Mario Kart before wielding a guitar (seriously – is there anything this woman can’t do?) and diving head first into the song.

Slowing down the loosely turning cog of the show, she sits down to serenade the audience with Portal, a mellow track from her new album Little Machines, which bewitches the audience into silence before continuing her energy and fervour with Where the Fence is Low and Banner. This is undoubtedly the highlight of the evening with supposedly the best reaction of the tour, and even the middle aged men get involved in the sudden wave of motion.

It’s a shame that the crowd were so sombre, as LIGHTS’ performance was absolutely breath taking – she came, she saw, but she didn’t quite conquer.

Prides: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 7/10/2014 [Review]

You’ll be hard-pushed to find a synthpop band nowadays that not only creates great dance music but that performs it as powerfully and as loudly as Prides, a Glaswegian trio that were only formed in 2013 and are already leaving their stamp on the music scene.

About 150 people gradually packed into the quaint little venue, and opening act Polo, formerly GirlsOnDrugs, commenced the evening. Although their songs were primarily unknown to the audience and their set was quite slow and tranquil, a fantastic cover of Arctic MonkeysDo I Wanna Know was enough to win over the opinions of the still crowd.

Duo The Wild Curve played their third ever live performance to perfection, contrasting with Polo by playing tunes that were loud, brazen and full of flair. The two juggled a mixture of instruments, from guitars, to drums, to keyboards as well as vocals and there was a circus-like feel to their set that was entertaining and well-played.

Finally, Prides entered the stage to an impatient crowd. I Should Know You Better carried the energy and power that set the tone for the rest of the night and Prides just didn’t stop giving. Out of the Blue was the peak of the set, due to it being released it on Spotify that same day and having a place on the FIFA 15 soundtrack. Sweat was flowing aplenty from both crowd and band; big, beltering choruses and an earth-shattering bass drum made the compact room seem to vibrate. Their cover of Roar by Katy Perry went down a storm and finale Messiah was an anthemic explosion. The entire gig was a mass of colour and dance, and both the crowd and the band loved every second.

Prides are definitely ones to watch – having already supported Blink 182 alongside Neck Deep at the O2 Academy Brixton and headlined the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival this year, we can expect big things from the Scottish trio.

Framing Hanley: The Key Club, Leeds, 27/10/2014 [Review]

Little has been heard of Tennessee five piece Framing Hanley since their last UK tour in 2011, but since then they’ve lost and gained a member, made an album and released a couple of singles. Support bands The Wilde and Hours are pleasant enough to listen to, but ultimately flop in igniting a spark of energy from the crowd, and the venue is pretty dead by the time Framing Hanley walk on stage.

Although opening song Criminal is one of the belters from their new album The Sum of Who We Are, very few members of the crowd react to it. Other songs from The Sum of… scarcely get a reaction, whereas hits from the first two albums, such as You Stupid Girl, 23 Days and Back To Go Again get the less miserable fans singing the lyrics back to a band who are clearly worried at the small turnout. Despite a tiny stage and a largely disagreeable crowd, Framing Hanley play as excellently as they always have, with frontman Kenneth Nixon executing his vocals perfectly, blending soft tones with powerful belting choruses, and there’s an unappreciated energy coming from the entire band that would be brilliant if it was captured by a better crowd.

Unfortunately, the only way to drive fans out of their reverie was to play older tunes, which is pitiful for a band that have tried so hard to push The Sum of Who We Are. Their famous cover of Lil Wayne’s Lollipop gets the crowd going a little too late, with less than a handful of songs left.

It’s clear that most people are here to relive the days of their early teenage years, and the band provide the nostalgia that fans have been sucking on all night with Hear Me Now’as their finale, the track that got them signed in 2006, which surprisingly lets the night end on a high.

It’s sad that such a passionate and talented band have been reduced to playing a mediocre venue to a flat crowd. Although the way the band handled this and played excellently despite it was admirable, after this reaction it’s uncertain what the future holds for Framing Hanley.


Catfish and the Bottlemen: Leeds University Stylus, 9/11/2014 [Review]

Their name has been tumbling off the lips of rock fans everywhere due to the plethora of media attention they’ve been receiving in the past year, so if you don’t know who they are yet, you should probably stick your nose out of the rock you’ve been hiding under every once in a while.

Last time they were in Leeds, Catfish and the Bottlemen absolutely smashed the Festival Republic stage and it’s clear from the very second that the hordes of fans swarm upon the venue that expectations are high and tonight is going to be phenomenal.

Brother and sister duo Southern are the first to grace the stage with their blues fused rock and roll twang, and exceed all expectations that could be set of a family pair that have been in business for only two years – they’re confident, smooth, and the perfect composers of a crowd that are loving every minute of their set.

Then, the lights drop and the soundtrack to of Pirates of the Caribbean thunders through the speakers, sending an electric pulse through the crowd that’s almost deadly. On walk Catfish and the Bottlemen, clad in their leather jackets and surrounded by a smoke of self-assurance as the crowd transcends into a wave of madness. The very first chord of Rango sends the venue into a mental frenzy that lasts until the end of their set. Despite claiming that his voice is on its ‘last legs,’ frontman Van McCann doesn’t hold back and performs every note to perfection despite being almost drowned out by the 1000 strong crowd. Sweat is dripping from every forehead five minutes into their set, shoes are being thrown everywhere and at least a half a dozen crowd-surfers have gone over the barrier already.

Perhaps the only flaw of the night is that it’s very much the Van McCann show, with the rest of the band resigned to merely playing their instruments in their set stage places (though still playing excellently nevertheless), but Van’s interaction with the crowd and his dynamic energy fuelling the masses at his feet are more than enough to carry the crowd.

It isn’t just the hits such as Kathleen and Pacifier that get a roaring response, every song on the set list is reverberated off the walls. Penultimate song ‘Cocoon’ is the highlight of the entire evening, with the crowd chanting the chorus several times over to the point that it’s deafening. After an elongated and explosive rendition of finale Tyrants, it’s time for Catfish to leave the stage with the promise to return to Leeds O2 Academy next year. Amazingly, the energy continues to pulse through the venue as the crowd filters out into the tranquil Sunday evening that had been forgotten in the heat of the concert, proof that tonight has been one that verifies why Catfish and the Bottlemen deserve every ounce of praise they get.

Neck Deep – Tramlines Festival 2014 [Review]

For a band that’s only been around since April 2012, pop punk quintet Neck Deep have demolished barriers that would have crushed most bands of their age and experience – the most recent including earning their slot at Tramlines Festival, the biggest and best music festival in South Yorkshire that has seen the likes of Young Guns, The xx, Rolo Tomassi and The Xcerts honour their stages over the years since its birth in 2009.

Playing the Skull and Bones Boys Club stage at The Corporation, Neck Deep didn’t exactly have their work cut out for them whilst playing for only half an hour in such a small and intimate venue, but nevertheless the band graced the stage with a meek humbleness that masked the reality of the vivacious and powerful performance that they had in store. Kicking off the set with Up In Smoke, the robust and fiery debut track from their latest EP A History of Bad Decisions, their audience wasted no time in involving themselves with the antics of vocalist Ben Barlow who bounded around the stage in a fit of energetic arousals and trademark shouty vocals.

Neck Deep upheld their powerful and vigorous presence on the stage throughout and cleverly combined popular singles such as Over and Over and What Did You Expect? which are saturated in typical pop punk angst with shorter, angrier songs such as Kick It and All Hype No Heart that suited the preference of every fan in the audience and obtained an alarming response for such a little-known band. Even during minor technical difficulties the band continued to entertain and every member of the crowd engaged in the not-so-pop-punk customary mosh pit founded by the demands of Barlow.

Regardless of the fact that thirty minutes is hardly enough for Neck Deep to truly portray their undoubtable talent, the boys from Wrexham certainly put on a show worthy of a headlining act and the world can only wait and see what the band have in store for us after the release of their forthcoming debut  album, Wishful Thinking.