Friday, 2 October 2015

Bullet For My Valentine - The Hexagon Reading, 02/10/15

Sometimes, life gets in the way. Tonight was one of those nights. Due to working a shift and having to get a train as soon as I finished, I missed opening act coldrain, which was quite disappointing - they're definitely something different, and would have been one of the few Japanese bands I'd seen live.

However, we still managed to arrive in time for half of While She Sleeps set. I'm a humongous While She Sleeps fan. Massive. They're awesome. So awesome that I ran away from their set at Warped UK two years ago, their set at Slam Dunk this year and their set at Reading Festival this year. I was really, really looking forward to seeing them live tonight.
So I'm surprised to say (and believe me, I'm more surprised than anyone) that I actually... Enjoyed their set? I didn't think I would. I was completely sure I would be covering my ears and having a little cry. I find it difficult to get along with music that is too shouty, because I like having something to sing to - especially at a concert.
I don't know if it was the live environment, the acoustics in the venue or the fact that I was in a really good mood, but I freaking loved their set. We only got to see four songs, because of getting there late, and I'm not completely sure what those songs were, but they ROCKED. I actually found myself wishing that we could have gotten to the venue earlier, because it would have been lovely to see a bit more of their set. Screamer Loz Taylor is one of the most charismatic frontmen I've ever encountered - during 'Seven Hills' he crowdsurfed over the entire crowd, as it was a rather small venue, and he looked the happiest I've probably seen anyone. He also did this badass microphone throw, where he tossed it into the air, jumped onto his knees and caught it; it was completely flawless, and the ease with which he performs such stunts demonstrates how comfortable he is on stage. He's completely at home while playing live music.
I was also utterly impressed by Mat Welsh (I didn't know While She Sleeps even had a clean vocalist!) and Sean Long (who is one of the most talented guitarists I've ever seen live, playing astounding riffs that really sold the songs for me)... In all honesty, I was just blown away by the entire band.
I don't know how they did it, but I think While She Sleeps might have converted me, and that terrifies me more than most things...

Of course, not really liking the support band (at least before the show) meant that I was mostly there to see Bullet For My Valentine, a band I've been listening to for about seven years now. I will admit, I've stopped listening to them as much recently, because I've had so much other music to listen to - still, they have a special place in my heart for being one of the first bands that made me appreciate heavier music. This meant I was thrilled that the evening was skewed towards their older songs (playing four songs from 'The Poison'. their debut album, compared to just five songs from new album 'Venom') and I had a whale of a time. I hadn't listened to many of the new songs from 'Venom', because I've never liked Bullet For My Valentine's new material as much as their earlier songs, but hearing them live for the first time might have converted me - 'Army of Noise' and 'Worthless' were both captivating, and I still have 'You Want A Battle? (Here's A War)' stuck in my head.
The first thing that struck me about seeing Bullet live was how similar they sounded to their recordings. Not in a hollow, lip-sync sort of way - just the fact that you can tell how talented this band are, because they can play some pretty crazy riffs without batting an eyelid. At times, this made the performance feel stilted for me. If a band is too insanely brilliant, it kind of feels as though they're going to get complacent or bored with their performance, and because Bullet didn't interact too much it did feel as though they were quite removed from the crowd despite their close proximity. However, with vocalist Matt Tuck thanking the crowd repeatedly and announcing how lovely it was to be headlining a venue in Reading for the first time, you can tell the band are still humble - even after all of their twelve long years.
I was also extremely impressed by how well newest member Jamie Mathias has fitted in with the band. Looking at them on stage and seeing how flawlessly they bounced off of each other in the performance, you would think the band had been performing with this precise line-up for the majority of their career, rather than the few short months that it's been. Jamie's backing vocal is great, especially on the songs that don't normally have two vocalists, and he really added an extra element to the songs - you could see how happy he was through the entire performance, and it's always inspiring to see someone playing with people they've probably idolised throughout their life.
One of the things that has ensured Bullet's continued success has definitely been their eagerness to take risks: some that didn't pay off (fourth album, 'Temper, Temper') and some that definitely did play off, such as letting the crowd pick a song for their setlist tonight. Before playing 'Suffocating Under Words Of Sorrow (What Can I Do)', Matt gave the crowd the choice between the aforementioned song and 'The Poison', letting the biggest cheer pick which song joined their set. I think this is an absolutely brilliant idea that more bands should start using - it makes for a more interesting, surprise-filled setlist, and it made the audience go crazy with their excitement when the song they chose filled the venue.
Another risk that paid off tonight was starting 'The Last Fight' with Matt solo. For a band that have such a high velocity and hardly ever slow it down, having a poignant moment like this at the beginning of one of their most vicious songs was a genius decision. It grabbed everyone's attention, and when the song restarted with the entire band performing it was electrifying.
I can't say a bad word about Bullet's set, because musically it was sublime. Yes, some of the songs repeat a little bit too much for my liking, but that meant that even if it was a song I didn't know I was singing along by the end of it. I hadn't expected to be as blown away as I was because I just didn't physically think they could be that good live - their music is so intricately skillful that you think it must be simplified for them to pull it off night after night. This isn't the case at all, demonstrated perfectly when guitarist Michael "Padge" Paget took to the stage for his guitar solo, which was the high point of the entire evening. Sometimes I can find guitar solos boring, because once the guitarist has done one amazing trick he's done them all, but Padge had a way of building the crowd into a frenzy, so once his guitar solo had finished people were still screaming for more.
Bullet aren't a band that incite crazed levels of fan behaviour, but they've certainly got a loyal following, and they were out in force at Reading. Every song had a moshpit and a roaring singalong, and I don't think I've ever seen such a brilliant reaction from every person in the room. Bullet have played some of the largest venues in the UK, so to see them in such a small room was an absolute treat. If I have the luck to see them again, I know it'll be a brilliant night. Matt promised the band would be back soon before walking off stage at the end of the show - fingers crossed that means Reading Festival 2016.

No Way Out
4 Words (To Choke Upon)
You Want A Battle? (Here's A War)
Raising Hell
Scream Aim Fire
Suffocating Under Words Of Sorrow (What Can I Do)
The Last Fight
Padge's guitar solo
Army Of Noise
Tears Don't Fall
Hand of Blood
Your Betrayal
Waking The Demon

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