There is little point verbosely writing upon the musicality of the supports. It equates to variations of standard hardcore riffs. It’s a hardcore show, surprises would have been welcomed but the probability was low.
Rise of Athena opened proceedings and ‘Fight Owens Fight’ were words I was hoping the whole band might aspire to, upon seeing drummer, Jak Snowdon’s, Kevin Owens wrestler tee. Sadly they felt like they were trying but struggling to tick box their hardcore residency form. They are a band trying to blend to a uniform image and meet the expectations of what they should be rather than being who they are.
As I watched, I wondered as to the female tendency to be harsh about their own gender but then I realised I’m equally harsh to all musicians. If you want people to buy into, relate and enjoy your music it either has to have a fun factor or an authenticity. I fear that women in this genre face expectations of delivering an aggression to match the men rather than just bringing a strength and fierceness that extends throughout every inch of their body language and not just the voice. Singer, Charli Elise, provides flashes of her humour and buoyant personality that should just be pervading her performance rather than embracing her frown’s masquerade of angry. A band that need time to grow but should drop the hubris of being the most unique thing you’ll hear.
Wars on the other hand had passed their hardcore 101 tests and ticked all boxes. I can’t take any man seriously that essentially wears nightie t-shirts. Never mind the Americanised melodic chipmunk choruses that grated in their pitch and extreme guitar spinning. I’d really appreciate it if bands remembered they’re meant to be engaging the audience and redress the balance in which they spend 70% of the set facing the drummer.
Their set has left me feeling inspired to practice everyday tasks to perfect completion whilst intensely spinning on the spot. I wonder if my written word will be legible if I do this? I may also start surveying musicians who undertake intense spinning and clinically test the dizzy levels in order to determine who spins the hardest. Surely this is the new measure for how well you have performed? If this was the case then they were the band of the night, but of course it isn’t, spinning impresses no one.
Sadly the singer’s attempts to entice a moving pit garnered lacklustre results. Embodying the skills of an air stewardess he cleared a path through the pit for their guitarist to finish the final song rolling around on the floor, amidst a fairly static crowd. I’m out, not that I ever got in in the first place.
Napoleon was rightfully the best support of the night. Musically these guys sound like Boys Night Out but without the melodic, catchy choruses. I appreciate a band focused on delivering a tight and technical set over stage theatrics that’s all gloss and no subsistence. Whilst I may now head up the ‘Anti-Spinning Federation’, singer, Wes Thompson, delivered on the dance moves. I feel like embracing a Louis Walsh moment, he reminded me of a tall Leprechaun, prancing on the spot, gripping the lapels of his coat. Be who you are and it is conveyed in what you do. If I were a hardcore fan they would be on my list of bands to watch.
Now that I’ve shown my hand as a non-hardcore lover you may wonder what I was doing at this show. Melodic Hardcore can be hit and miss for me, Defeater are one of those hits. I first saw Defeater live pre vocalist, Derek Archambault’s, hip surgery, at Camden’s Underworld. The energy in the room and the raw, urgent delivery by Defeater completely blew me away. At that show the crowd were given a stark warning not to touch Derek, due to his health complaints. Now, post surgery Derek thanks the crowd for remembering it’s a hardcore show. Birmingham’s hardcore fans went for it and so did Defeater.
I didn’t think the energy and awe I felt at the Underworld show would be matched again but it was. Opening with ‘Bastards’ there is no other song they should ever open with, as the opening track to the ‘Letters Home’ Album, going first is it’s only position with the line ‘I hope this finds you well’ and a brutality in delivery that sets the scene for the whole set.
This tour feels like the ‘Letters Home’ tour that wasn’t possible due to Derek’s health and they’ve been touring hard as their new album, ‘Abandoned’ drops next month. The permanent touring has taken its toll on the vocals tonight but this is barely noticeable except for when Derek speaks. The skills of drummer Joe Longobardi, are evident from the pre set jazz beats he delivers as everyone readies their instruments. The foundation he provides for the weaving narrative they collectively tell with each song is one of the things that set Defeater apart from other melodic hardcore bands. If you’re ambivalent to this band I urge you to see them, live they will change your mind.
Review – Kirsty Hillyer
Photos – Steve Gerrard