Sunday, 5 April 2015

Hidden In Plain View playing 'Life In Dreaming' in full - Thekla, Bristol, 05/04/15

I'm gonna admit first thing, straight up, I'd never heard of Hidden In Plain View before this concert. I'd heard of Rumours, the opening band, as they're fairly local so I've heard about them being added to other line-ups, and I'd only heard of Alvarez Kings after missing them at Warped UK back in 2013. The person I was really there to see was William Beckett.

I've wanted to see William Beckett many times over the past six years, both as lead singer of The Academy Is... and as a solo artist in his own right, so this was a real dream come true for me, especially as I attended a pre-show warm-up and meet and greet, in which he played a few songs that he doesn't play much anymore. The first of these songs was 'Lock In', the theme song he penned for John Scalzi's novel of the same name, a song that William confessed he'd never played in the UK before, but performed brilliantly despite this. He followed up with 'Dig A Hole' which is one of his solo songs, a The Academy Is song called '40 Steps', and a cover of 'Lua' by Bright Eyes. For this being my first time I'd heard his vocal in a live environment I was so impressed - I've always loved his distinctive vocal tone, and I worried that it wouldn't come across as well as I'd expected, but if anything it actually came across better.

Lock In
Dig A Hole
40 Steps (The Academy Is... song)
Lua (Bright Eyes cover)

I was very happy when Rumours were announced as the opening band at this show, because I heard of them a couple of years ago but I've just never been able to get to any of their performances. Starting off with 'Lost Without You', which sounds like a rockier version of Vanessa Carlton's 'A Thousand Miles', I loved the fact that their songs were catchy and it was so easy to singalong to them, even if you'd never heard them before. With only a six song set, they had their work cut out for them to really make an impact, because half of the audience were there to see a much heavier band and half of the audience were there to watch an acoustic act, but I'm sure that they definitely created a few fans of their own in the process.
Vocalist Alex Mcmain shared an anecdote about a review they received for one of their London shows, in which the reviewer stated that they "weren't rock-n-roll enough because they drank coffee onstage", but I think they perform great rock music despite the fact that they drink coffee - there wasn't a moment in their set that could have been described as boring, and they were brilliant as a warm up band, constantly encouraging fans to clap along to their songs.
It was great to see people reacting to a band that they might have been indifferent to when they heard their name on the line-up. 'Just A Kiss' got people dancing, with their pop-punk influences obvious, while their power ballad, 'Battlefield', is a song that shows them poking their heads above the crowd, something that really stood out, and it's been a long time since I've heard a song like that from a relatively young band. Alex's vocal has a slightly nasal tone, making the band seem like the offspring of The 1975 and Placebo, which isn't a negative aspect at all - so many bands have been getting massive fan followings because of how unique their vocalists are, and I can feel that this is going to be another one of those bands.
I couldn't resist buying their album, 'Letters From The Memory Box', at the show last night, and I'm sure that I'm going to have that on repeat for the foreseeable future.

Lost Without You
Forever Young
Just A Kiss
Make Believe
Meet Me Half Way

I missed the Alvarez Kings back in 2013 at Warped UK, and I hadn't actually heard much from them since, apart from the fact that they are playing Warped US this year and have played South By South West, so I had assumed that they were American band, meaning that I was beyond impressed when I learnt that they were from Yorkshire.
Really, the main thing that convinced me they were from America was how utterly mesmirising their set was. Opening song 'Run From You' had a gradual build up that was completely captivating; from just a few synths and a gentle drum beat, through echoing vocals into a kick in that was brilliantly performed, I was automatically hooked to their set. Similarly to Rumours, their songs were all so catchy - even though I'd never listened to them before, because of the repetitive sections I was soon singing along, and loving every moment. However, musically, they were a complete 180 from the first band, with their indie, dance influenced music being less on the rocky side, but still brilliant. Acoustic song 'Sleepwalking' was one of the standout moments from the set, proving that they really can perform any type of music, and by including a percussive egg and a tambourine they showed a real talent for using unusual instruments and that was another thing that really made them stand out in quite a mixed bill.
As well as having a brilliant mix of percussion, all of the members joined in on backing vocal duties, with guitarist Sean Parkin and drummer Richard Walker being the main assistant. Their main vocalist, Simon Thompson, really doesn't need much help with the vocals, because his tone is pure and he has a strong vocal that can hold its own, but the harmonies between them really added to the effect that the band had.
You can tell that a tour has gone amazingly when one of the other acts is side of stage, and with William Beckett stood at the side singing along to most of 'No Resolve', it shows that Alvarez Kings really are a band that will be loved by many. They definitely seem to be getting more attention on the other side of the pond, but I'm going to keep an eye on these guys - they're destined for big things, and those things should start happening soon. When they next tour, I'm guaranteed to be buying a ticket.

Run From You
Tell-Tale Heart
Fear To Feel
No Resolve
Postcards From Berlin

William Beckett was the main event for me, so when he started off with a cover of 'Elephant' by Damien Rice, it was obvious that we were in for a special set. Diving from that straight into 'The Phrase That Pays', the audience seemed to be automatically grabbed, with most of the people singing along with every word. One of the things that demonstrates exactly how talented William is is the fact that even though the songs were originally written and recorded with four other guys, he still made it as atmospheric and great sounding as the original tracks.
I thought it was brilliant that William split the set up, with some of the bands songs and some of his own solo songs, because I really enjoy all of the material and was glad there wasn't too much of one over another. Announcing "I'm gonna play one of my new songs, and then another of my new songs, and then we're gonna jump back on the nostalgia train..." was a brilliant way to let people know what he was doing, and the mixture definitely made the set all the more interesting. The first of the solo songs he played was 'By Your Side', which is one of my favourite songs off of 'Genuine and Counterfeit', and while the recording seems to go insanely high-pitched and I didn't think it would be possible for him to perform it live, it was amazing when he hit every single note, blowing me away with his range. Holding out the note on "tonight", while turning in a complete circle and continuing it, also showed off the range that his vocal can perform, and it just makes me even more excited to hear where he goes with new music in the future: he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve that he hasn't played yet, and I can't wait to hear the results of them.
I'm not sure whether my favourite moment was 'About A Girl' or 'Slow Down', both of which were performed brilliantly. 'About A Girl' was The Academy Is' most popular song, so the reaction was visceral, with the biggest singalong moment of the night, but 'Slow Down' was a surprise addition to the set which made it all the more sweet. The crowd seemed a lot more receptive of William's set than they did to the previous bands, joining in on every call of "when I say 'woop', you say 'woop'!", which was one of the most random but also endearing moments of the night.
Finishing off with 'Just You Wait', a song that William wrote for his little sister after her struggles with depression and self-harm, was the most tender experience of the entire evening, and it was brilliant when William invited his friends Alvarez Kings on stage with him to perform it. Simon from Alvarez Kings told us all about the time that he got trapped in Canada on Warped Tour, and it looked for a while as though the band wouldn't be able to continue on with the tour, but William stepped in as vocalist for a few shows, and it's a great thing that their friendship has continued on and allowed collaborations like this. Their voices worked so well together, really adding to the emotion of the song, and it made for a touching end to a brilliant set.

Elephant (Damien Rice cover)
The Phrase That Pays (The Academy Is... song)
By Your Side
Dear Life
About A Girl (The Academy Is... song)
Seed (The Academy Is... song)
Slow Down (The Academy Is... song)
Just You Wait (ft. Alvarez Kings)

I hadn't heard of Hidden In Plain View, so I was surprised to discover that this was the ten year anniversary tour for their debut album, 'Life In Dreaming'. After buying tickets I listened to a few of their songs, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were rather reminiscent of The Used and Taking Back Sunday (which, funnily enough, I was reminded of in their live set, when lead vocalist Joe Reo threw his microphone into the sky, a move often performed by Taking Back Sunday singer Adam Lazzara) - they had an early emo sound, with frenetic vocals and speeding guitar riffs that were adrenaline-soaked. This made me rather surprised with the support choices, because Hidden In Plain view were most definitely the heaviest band on the bill, but it made for a variety filled and extremely enjoyable night out. Despite the fact that I wasn't in love with the album, I was really excited to see what it sounded like in full, but you could tell from the roars of the crowd that a lot of people were hearing one of their favourite albums.
If you haven't heard of Hidden In Plain View, this might be because of the fact that they released one album and then split up, all the way back in 2007. A second album was released a few months after they went their separate ways, but they only really got back together last year, and this is their first UK tour since reuniting. I wasn't overly excited about this development, because I didn't know any of their material, but going by the amount of people gathered at the front of the stage screaming along to every single word, this band means a lot to a lot of people.
You could tell that this was an album show, rather than a normally constructed setlist, because of the perfectly placed rises and falls throughout. The first three songs were utterly frenetic, with Joe on his knees at multiple times throughout the set, throwing everything he had into every moment of the performance. However, this changed for 'The Point' and 'Twenty Below', both of which slowed down the set and gave a chance for the vocals to shine over the music. Joe's vocal suited the fast-paced songs much more than the slow songs, but co-vocalist Rob Freeman sounded amazing on both songs, with a cleaner vocal compared to the rough and explosive main vocal, making for a brilliant contrast.
On the whole, the set was rather predictable - I didn't know the album, but you could tell the direction that it was going in, switching from heavier songs to lighter ones and back again - most of them sounding rather similar. The song that really impacted me was 'The Innocent Ones', which had an absolutely beautiful outro that sent shivers up my spine. Until that moment I'd been debating whether or not to buy the album as soon as I got home after the show, but it just completely gripped me, making it one of the most interesting and captivating songs, despite the fact that its run time is just over six and a half minutes.
Joe took a moment to shout out to William Beckett, telling him that he's "all grown up, and [his] music is just getting better and better", further adding to the sense of camaraderie that Alvarez Kings nodded to during the end of their set, when they made their thank yous. After William ran on stage to sing the opening "hey!" on 'American Classic', it wasn't a surprise when they called him back on stage to play acoustic guitar for the closing album track 'Halcyon Daze'. With both William Beckett and Alvarez Kings back on stage, William playing guitar and Alvarez Kings bringing back their tambourine and percussive egg, it made for a brilliant sound: the heavier, mixed with the acoustic and indie tendencies, made for a very special experience. With Joe shouting "that was spontaneous!" after they'd all walked off stage, it definitely seemed as though Alvarez Kings weren't expected, but if that's the kind of music that would be made in a jam session between the three of them, they definitely need to get together again in the future.
Even though I hadn't heard of Hidden In Plain View, or 'Life In Dreaming', before tonight, I was very impressed by their live show and I've already ordered the album, which I'm going to listen to a lot. Joe said during the show that he's not sure whether the band are going to make any new music, or how long their reunion is going to last, but I'm glad I got to be a part of it.

Bleed For You
Ashes To Ashes
A Minor Detail
The Point
Twenty Below
Garden Statement
The Innocent Ones
American Classic
In Memory
Top 5 Addictions
Halcyon Daze
Belly Full of Kerosene
Shamans Witches Magic

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