Rival Schools @ Birmingham Academy 2 – 17th June 2008

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It was a surprisingly low-key return to Birmingham for Rival Schools, some 7 years after they released their one and only album to date, and 6 years after Ian Love’s departure caused the band to split. Other dates on this ‘reunion’ tour completely sold-out, so had Midlands gig-goers developed a taste for their post-hardcore melodies?

Two support acts were lined up for the evening. Firstly, This City — an entertainingly energetic and jangly band who had briefly appeared in T4’s mobileAct unsigned. Despite their best efforts to warm the crowd up through banter and songs, the audience remained sullen and withdrawn, muttering to each other throughout. This City’s performance was polished and their songs catchy and well-executed; a perfect warm-up for Rival Schools, despite the crowd’s disappointing response.

this city (8 of 9)circuits (2 of 3)

Sadly, the second support was Circuits. According to their MySpace page, they see themselves as a combination of new wave and punk. Seeing them live, I can see where this labelling comes from; some songs had a certain reggae beat, and I could even hear influences from the likes of The Police — however their lyrics and melodies were disappointingly bland and simplistic, reminding me more of Maroon 5 than Madness, which was only compounded by lead singer Benny’s pretty posturing and a style resembling Matt Willis of Busted fame. If this wasn’t all bad enough, I felt sure that some of their more complicated drum beats were slightly off, and Benny’s overly melodramatic 90’s-style vocals jarred on my nerves.

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Having passed the support-act endurance test I was more than ready for Walter and bandmates to take to the stage, to a warm welcome and an unexpected snippet of the 1978 hit ‘Baker Street’ by Gerry Rafferty! This lead straight into Travel by Telephone which sounded as fantastic as it did in the 2001 recording. Walter’s voice was clear and passionate, and the rest of the band were tight and controlled, churning out perfect renditions of High Acetate and Everything Has It’s Point.

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Following these familiar tracks, a new track called Paranoid Detectives was unleashed which should have whet the appetites of the crowd for forthcoming new material from the group; however they merely shuffled on the spot and nodded along compliantly. Sensibly, the band followed the lull caused by this unknown track with familiar single Good Things which seemed to inject a little more life into the crowd. Despite the crowd’s lack of energy, they politely applauded each track and were attentive throughout. Was their behaviour indicative of the gap in time from Rival Schools’ only release to now? Had these gig-goers aged enough to change them from young crowd surfers to mature shufflers?

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The set ended with a re-interpretation of the Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’ which sounded refreshingly unlike the original, and could easily have blended into a future Rival Schools’ release. This then turned into The Switch and upon leaving the stage the crowd finally appeared to wake up and saluted them with rapturous applause. The encore did not disappoint either — they returned to the stage with Holding Sand, followed by Frey, and then finally ending the show with the thunderous Used for Glue. This rounded off a satisfying set which should have been shared with a sell-out venue, but perhaps I should simply be greatful I had the opportunity to see them with such a small, quiet and disarmingly polite crowd rather than a raucous festival lineup or in a packed gig somewhere else in the country.


Travel by Telephone
High Acetate
Everything Has It’s Point
Paranoid Detectives
Good Things
My Echo
Undercovers On
Big Waves
Favorite Star
Hooligans For Life
How Soon Is Now?
The Switch

Holding Sand
Used for Glue

Review – Red Annie
Photos – Lee Allen

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