Hippo Campus @ o2 Institute,18 February 2019

Since I last saw Hippo Campus play in Birmingham (supporting Modest Mouse in 2015), they have not returned to Birmingham, despite playing in England on a number of occasions over the last few years.  In my review  I knew this band was destined for success.  It is fitting therefore that their triumphant return to Birmingham is at the same venue but this time as headliners, albeit in the smaller but totally packed Library room.

Having missed out on the shows to support the Landmark album release in 2016, our city is treated to the promotional tour for new album Bambi.  One thing is blatantly clear within seconds of the band hitting the stage; they still look ridiculously young (as is 95% of the audience) and their confidence and skill in performance and writing has multiplied beyond my expectations.

They blast through songs from their back catalogue and the audience sings along with almost every track.  There is no lull for the newer songs, although there is a notable lift and noticeable moshing on earlier tracks like “Down South”, “Little Grace” and “Suicide Saturday”.  The newest member of the band DeCarlo Jackson adds a wonderful extra sonic layer to the stunning foundation of arpeggiated guitar lines, jerky offbeat rhythms and harmonised vocals.  His trumpet, percussion and energy give an extra dynamic to the band’s already vibrant performance.

It is clear the band is happy to be in Birmingham as Zach at one point says: “We are chuffed to be here, is that right?  Chuffed?”  The audience scream.  They scream a lot.  There is a fantastic atmosphere in the room driven by the strength of Hippo Campus’ performance and it does not let up.

I’d written earlier this week about how I am done with men and guitars, but Hippo Campus are a fascinating and enlightened group of young men who unquestionably have revitalised me and rekindled my love for this sound.  Their new album Bambi is out now and Hippo Campus’ tour continues through Europe, Australia and the far East before returning home to America in May.  If you like the sound of bands like Born Ruffians or Little Comets, this is for you.

Reviewer: Alan Neilson

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