Monday, 27 October 2014

Kids In Glass Houses - Oxford O2 Academy 2, 26/10/14

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last eight months, you'll know that Kids In Glass Houses announced their split all the way back in February, so this farewell tour has been a long time coming but it doesn't make it any less bittersweet. As one of the most successful bands coming from the Welsh music scene in a long long time, their split didn't (and still doesn't, to me) make any sense, and their live shows cement that disbelief even stronger in my mind. 
Starting off with a soundcheck party before the show, they gave fans an opportunity to both request rarely played songs and join them onstage. Opening with my personal request, 'Secret Santa' (don't judge me, I've never made it to any of their Christmas shows and this was my last chance!), they spent the next hour running through a short set of their most loved and least played songs before meeting and signing things for everyone. During 'Maybe Tomorrow' Beri Simmons joined them onstage to sing with them and during 'For Better Or Hearse', despite the technical difficulties that delayed the start of the song, they had a girl called Rachel playing the trumpet. It says a lot for this band that their soundcheck set was better performed than many bands full sets; Aled Phillips vocals are always absolutely stunning and musically the guys couldn't perform better. The technical difficulties weren't annoying in the slightest, because Aled's quick and witty banter was entertaining enough to watch for hours and the tiny 'Minority' cover the performed was hilarious. I've never seen a show where Kids In Glass Houses as a whole have looked so relaxed; the break up sucks, definitely, but it's obvious that it's taken a weight off of their shoulders and they're having much more fun on this tour than I've seen them have before. 

Soundcheck setlist: 
Secret Santa
Maybe Tomorrow
Minority cover
For Better or Hearse
Lovely Bones
The Florist

The main show commenced a little over two hours after the soundcheck ended, with support band Save Your Breath igniting a spark in the audience that had everyone dancing like crazy. Opening with the intro music from 'The Walking Dead' they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand for their entire set. The majority of their set was comprised of songs from their newest release, 2013's 'There Used To Be A Place For Us', and seeing their live set since the release of that album makes it obvious how much they've developed. I saw Save Your Breath in this same venue when they were supporting The Blackout at their 2011 Christmas show and their set back then was, sadly, rather forgettable. But it's a completely different story tonight. Speeding through their set, vocalist Kristian Richards spends more time in the crowd that he does on stage, demonstrating an energy that I haven't seen Save Your Breath perform with before and where before they were forgettable tonight they are breathtaking. Even when slowing it down to perform 'Skin and Bones' acoustically, it doesn't put a dent in the overall energy that they're oozing in their set, it just proves how beautiful Kristian's voice is and how well they write their lyrics. This is their third tour supporting Kids In Glass Houses, so it makes sense that they are the support on their last ever tour, but it's about time Save Your Breath start headlining venues this size instead of just supporting in them. 

The Walking Dead intro
Fake It Like You Mean It
Skin and Bones (with Kristian playing acoustic guitar)
Stay Young
Harrow Road
Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy

I have seen a lot of bands live; tiny club bands, festival headliners, arena fillers. And based on this performance, Kids In Glass Houses are better than the majority of them. All of their songs are catchy and easy to sing along to; they've found the perfect formula for writing hits and from their first album they put themselves so far ahead of the crowd that it was difficult for them to get any better, but they succeeded with 'Dirt', their second release. While third and fourth albums, 'In Gold Blood' and 'Peace' respectively, might not have been so perfectly polished, they're both still better than most of the albums that have been getting churned out into the world in recent years. In my opinion, the setlist was the perfect blend, showcasing all of their greatest hits from the last eight years. It was 'Smart Casual' and 'Dirt'-centric, but when songs written that early in your career are that good it's always going to be impossible to step out from under their shadow. 
Bursting on to the stage after 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien' is played, it's automatically extremely high emotions in the room and they just get higher throughout the hour and a half set. They played all of the songs you'd expect them to play and more, and everyone in the room was singing and dancing along, showing just how many fans this band has managed to accumulate in less than a decade. Throughout the set all of the members get to show off their talents; drummer Philip Jenkins started proceedings by performing a drum solo before 'Artbreaker I', with Iain Mahanty, Shay and Joel Fisher all having their own solos throughout the set. Sometimes it's easy to forget how talented they all are apart as well as combined; if songs sound effortlessly written and run so smoothly the band seems to be more of a machine than a coming together of separate parts, so it hurts to now see the separate parts going their separate ways. I don't know what the guys are planning on doing after the split but I really hope some of them carry on with music. It would be a crime against the music industry to lose an amazing band and a group of talented individuals.
There is nothing I can fault about this entire performance. The lyrics of 'Undercover Lover' are extremely true; we aren't going to find another band as good, or as original, as Kids In Glass Houses, for a very long time. Despite the sad occasion I haven't seen a band receive a reaction this effusive in months, and playing 'Hunt The Haunted' is a stroke of genius; "A wake's a party, have a good time." Instead of mourning the death of Kids In Glass Houses, for this tour everyone is celebrating their life
and their legacy. History won't be forgetting this band any time soon and I feel sorry for anyone who never managed to experience their live shows as they are completely flawless. Aled closed the night by saying "Even now, at the end, I can't explain to you how fucking unbelievable it is to see this many people singing our songs back at us," and thanking Oxford for being there for the band over the years. After relating an anecdote about playing Give It A Name tour earlier in the set, it's obvious that Oxford holds a lot of good memories, so it's good that they've managed to return to say farewell. 
After the encore, when the band were walking off stage, 'We Are Never Getting Back Together' by Taylor Swift was played, so if you're still filled with the hope of them changing their minds it's time to come to terms with the fact that the end is KIGH. 

Artbreaker I
The Best Is Yet To Come
Give Me What I Want
Undercover Lover (with a small cover of Dancing On The Ceiling)
Easy Tiger
Dance All Night
Diamond Days
Lilli Rose
Raise Hell (acoustic)
The Morning Afterlife
Hunt The Haunted
Artbreaker II
Youngblood (Let It Out)
Matters At All

I'm seeing them again at their Reading show, so I'll probably do a more in depth review about that show, I'm just feeling very overwhelmed and emotional about the whole situation. 

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