It was an early start tonight at the O2 Institute, and it was promising to be a very blustery affair with storm Hannah delivering winds of up to 82mph outside and some very talented young artists cooking up a storm inside the venue. I’ve actually followed Jaws from their early single releases, but this was the first time that I had actually seen them live. Strangely, I remember a young lad coming up to me when I was DJing in Blast Off (Wolverhampton’s most prominent indie club night until 2014) saying that he was in this band Jaws and that I should check them out, the rest is history. Jaws have certainly developed their sound from their B-Town indie roots, it has matured into something more developed and progressive with clear elements of dream pop and shoegaze, they have done it with a distinctive passion and self-belief, and this was flowing in abundance as soon as we walked into the venue.
We were greeted by the progressive beats of producer Casey Orange. I found this talented young soundsmith from Birmingham very captivating indeed. His beats were addictive, and the talented MC’s and female vocalist provided a unique edge to his sound. Not really a sound that you would associate with an indie gig, but it actually worked, and I am sure that he picked up some fans tonight.
The main support for the tour was four-piece Honey Lung. Hailing from London, but with a sound that could be very reminiscent of Seattle in the 90s, this band were fantastic. If you like all things fuzzy and “shoegazey” blended with a 90s grunge sound, then they are a band for you. You could easily pick out influences from Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Dinosaur Jr together with a Jesus and Mary Chain feel to their sound. The passion and skill of the individual members of the band combined to craft a sound unique to the current music scene. They warmed up the crowd really well and are definitely a band to investigate further.
The half-hour changeover time was spent wondering what the set would consist of. Jaws, now on their third album “The Ceiling”, have plenty of tracks to choose from all of which could be potential crowd pleasers. The 4-piece’s recent dream pop inspired album (the follow up to sophomore record “Simplicity” and debut “Be Slowly”) has been getting some very strong reviews indeed, and this short 4 date tour was, of course, a celebration of the release of their latest record, so I was expecting that to feature prominently throughout.
At around 8:30 pm the lights faded and the intro music began, JAWS entered the stage fashioning matching green boiler suits which I actually thought looked pretty awesome. The lighting of the letters J, A, W and S was in the background and working in perfect time with the music. This was one of the best features of the set design for me, as were the various floor standing lamps, actually adding to the essence of the evening. The intro music merged seamlessly into “Looking/Passing” a track that features on the new album and one which starts with a gentle yet highly motivating pace. Frontman Connor Schofield building the intensity with the lyrics “I want to dance, dance like I don’t care. Dance like this fire inside of me. But everybody’s watching”. At the song’s peak, that is precisely what the crowd did – they didn’t care, and the entire venue launched into a pogo mosh pit frenzy. I don’t think the dancing stopped at any point during the set, even on their slower tracks. In fact, throughout the show, your personal space was being violated at times, but in the best possible way.
The first three tracks paid homage to the three era’s of their sound with “Right in Front of Me” from Simplicity and “Think Too Much, Feel Too Little” from Be Slowly following up the opener. Connor’s vocals were on fine form, and the band were technically flawless, maintaining their cool while the crowds’ ferocity and intensity grew throughout the tracks that they delivered. The frontman enlightened and lifted the spirit of the crowd even further with the acknowledgement that “You guys are loud. Keep that up” before launching into their current single “Please Be Kind”.
The 16 track set was a perfect blend of tracks from their three albums and a slight nod to their EP with fan favourite “Stay In”. The singles that have been released from The Ceiling seemed to have the largest impact on the crowd with sing-a-long moments to “Please Be Kind”, but saying that, one of my personal favourite tracks from the new album “End of the Road” with it’s almost Deftones vibe had a really great response. With 8 tracks from the new album and a crowd response that you would be hoping for when you play them live for the first time to your home crowd, you can see why Connor exclaimed to the crowd “Well, this is very very sick! Thank you!”
Following new album title track “The Ceiling” came my first personal highlight of the evening with my favourite JAWS track “Just a Boy”. It actually gave me goosebumps as the lyrics “I’m just a boy, but I’ll be a better man” was being belted out by the entire venue. The second highlight came with new album opener “Driving at Night”, the track has nostalgic hints towards Joy Division and New Order, is possibly one of the best opening tracks to an album that I have heard in the last decade, and when it kicks after the silence you have to just go with it. All this being said, the ultimate highlight was the final track “Be Slowly” and encore track “Gold” (with the addition of a flare being set off). Their debut album is one of those classic indie albums from the 10s, and I don’t think it would have been as memorable an evening without those tracks.
From beginning to end there was a certain humility as JAWS delivered their seamless blend of dream pop and indie anthems with exactly the passion and self-belief that I knew they would. You could feel how appreciative the band were, it wasn’t just the “It means the world that you allow us to do this. So thank you.” acknowledgement from Connor that gave that impression. It was through everything that they were doing. The way that the whole band were working together to create a spellbinding and unforgettable atmosphere.
This wasn’t just a homecoming show, it was a night that you would talk about for weeks, months and maybe years to come. For whatever reason, I haven’t managed to see JAWS for 7 years with their gigs always falling on times when I haven’t been available. It will definitely not be another 7 years before I see them again.
Right in Front of Me
Think Too Much, Feel Too Little
Please Be Kind
End of the road
What We Haven’t Got Yet
Just a Boy
Do You Remember?
Driving at Night
Reviewer: Imran Khan