Monday, 14 December 2015

Don Broco - Brixton O2 Academy, 13/12/15

With working on a Sunday, a long bus journey and the door time being rather early, I wasn't surprised when I missed the very beginning of Symmetry's set. Walking in on their cover of 'Roar' by Katy Perry, I was instantly struck with how very pop they are: their music would fit extremely well alongside that of 5 Seconds of Summer or All Time Low. 'Fight For Love' is bound to appeal to teenage girls everywhere - I'm not judging, but it's totally true - with its "we gotta fight for the right to love" refrain perfect for that pop-based rebellious stage of life. The backing track on closing song 'End of Time' was very over-powering and the ending sound very tinny which put a dampener on the set, but I thought the band were a lot of fun and I picked up their EP, 'Cure', at the show. I'm thinking they'll be one of those bands that sound better on recordings than they do in a live environment.

I'd seen Arcane Roots back at Takedown Festival in March and I'd intended to listen to them more, but I just didn't get a chance to do it - that means I was unfamiliar with all of the songs that they played.
Fitting just five songs into a half an hour set, while not having much interaction with the crowd, meant the songs were an average of six minutes each. While supporting a band like Don Broco (fast songs, easy singalongs, lots of dancing) the music seemed too cerebral for the crowd, and Arcane Roots definitely had the hardest time in their support slot. They were the heaviest band on the bill, and with the roar of the crowd talking being the only sound between songs, it seemed obvious that they were fighting a losing battle.
But they didn't let that phase them, and they still put on a remarkably enthusiastic performance. The thing that's really notable about Arcane Roots is how passionate they are. Vocalist Andrew Groves performs so many crazy vocal stunts, particularly in 'Leaving', where he jumps from a low harmony into a screaming crescendo that sends shivers down the spine.
The moment in the set that really made my jaw drop was probably the climax of 'Slow Dance', in which Andrew devolved into full on screaming. With the first two songs being slightly pared back, more reminiscent of Royal Blood with their radio-friendly brand of rock, it was impressive to see such a difference in dynamics throughout their set.
I loved 'If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves', which really reminded me of Lostprophets and Hoobastank. It's a sound that's lost some popularity over the last few years, with the second coming of screamo and the inescapable pop-punk sound, so it's nice to see a band go out there and play pure rock songs. The band seemed to relax more, knowing that it was their final song, and it seemed to have more of an effect on the crowd: it seemed to be the first moment that everyone really stepped back and took notice of the wonderful sound pouring from the stage.
I know I said I'd listen to more Arcane Roots back in March, but I definitely mean that now. They're a band that deserve a hell of a lot more recognition than they're getting, and I'm excited about exploring their back catalogue in full.

Over & Over
Slow Dance
If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves

Coasts were the best fitting of the support acts at this show. Seeing their set at Reading festival I was impressed by their indie pop sound and their quickly rising popularity, and being main support at a venue like Brixton - all the while still not having released an album - perfectly demonstrates their trajectory.
Coasts might have experienced a fast rise to fame this year but they definitely deserve it, and they deserved this main support slot. Based on the attentiveness of the crowd every time vocalist Chris Caines spoke, I'm sure that quite a few of the audience members were actually in attendance for Coasts rather than for Don Broco - with songs this catchy, who could blame them.
Other than 'Oceans' (which I'd completely forgotten was Coasts song - whoops!) I didn't know any of their other material, but I found myself really enjoying 'Modern Love' and 'A Rush Of Blood'. Some of the songs sounded rather similar to each other, but when you've only been a band for four years you can be forgiven for not having a chance to properly explore the genre you're writing for. However, those three songs particularly felt like brilliant examples of the indie genre, and really do stand out compared to the other music being released in the scene. If you don't think you've heard 'Oceans', go and give it a spin: it's one of those songs that has been inescapable all summer, stuck in everyone's head, but these guys are not going to be a one hit wonder band.
Other than the under-development of their writing technique, there's nothing that would point towards Coasts being such a brand new band. The ease of their performance on stage was remarkable and they didn't seem phased at all by performing to such a large crowd: in fact, out of all of the supports they definitely owned the stage, and with all factors combined at a few moments during the set it really did feel like attending a Coasts headline show. For a band with six members (five permanent and a live member) to have such easy and successful stage chemistry was commendable, and I believe there are going to be big things on the way for this band in 2016.
With their album being released next month, and a headline show at Camden Roundhouse in February - if you haven't heard of Coasts, that'll be changing soon.

Your Soul
Modern Love
A Rush Of Blood

After Don Broco announced this show back at the beginning of the year, I procrastinated for a long time before purchasing my tickets. Let's just say, I've only had my tickets since the beginning of November... So I'd been considering attending this show for a while, but I've only had a few weeks to get properly excited about it.
As my penultimate gig of 2015, and my ninth Don Broco show, I wasn't surprised this was also one of the best shows I'd seen this year. Don Broco know how to put on a performance, and getting to experience a fully crafted setlist (their set at Reading festival was highly skewed towards new material) was something I'd been highly anticipating.
Nothing about this show disappointed me. From the over abundance of foliage (three giant palm trees lining the back of the stage, and multiple smaller potted plants scattered around the sides) to the eye-burningly bright white trousers worn by vocalist Rob Damiani (and the super stylish white shorts worn by drummer Matt Donnelly - they're a very clean, well-dressed band thanks to their partnership with New Look) this wasn't a normal rock show.
In fact, if it wasn't for the power rock anthem 'I Got Sick', the furious and destructive 'Thug Workout', and the unexpected cover of 'Killing In The Name' at the end of 'Fancy Dress', I don't think it would be possible to refer to Don Broco as a rock band anymore. Yes, they play all of their own instruments, and yes, they're extremely talented with their musical skills, but since transcending into the mainstream and veritably exploding in the last twelve months, I definitely think their pop sensibilities are much more pronounced these days. With "ooh, ooh, ooh" singalongs cropping up all over the place, a plethora of dad dancing moves from Damiani, and the screaming fans when Rob finally removed his glaringly bright jacket, Don Broco are becoming more of a pop band every day. And this isn't a bad thing.
It's not a bad thing because Don Broco are a band who have worked incredibly hard to get where they have, and their genre shift has come completely naturally. Playing the festival circuit multiple times each year, touring constantly for years and clawing their way up from the smallest venues, this band deserve what they're managing to achieve. Releasing instant hits like 'What You Do To Me', 'Money Power Fame' and 'Superlove' doesn't hurt. These songs are fun on recordings, but they become entirely different beasts in a live environment - they stick inside your head and are completely unforgettable (exemplified perfectly when I was on the tube travelling away from the venue, and someone was whistling 'Fire' to themselves).
The guys have been, quite understandably, highly anticipating this show. I spoke to guitarist Simon Delaney a couple of weeks ago, and he said the entire band were feeling a nervous excitement surrounding the event: it's the biggest headline show they've played, and the final night of the largest tour - and year - of their band's life. Rob also touched upon this on stage last night, saying "compared to any show we've ever played before, this show has had the most anticipation, the most build-up". They didn't let themselves get complacent, putting more into this show than at any set of theirs that I've experienced before. With Simon playing two guitars during 'What You Do To Me', a stripped back piano outro to 'Hold On', and a string quartet accompanying the band during 'Further' and their three song encore, there was no expense spared in making this a wonderfully unique Broco show.
Doing the sit down, jump up routine with the crowd a few times (even encouraging the people on the balcony seating to join in, which we did in force) and claiming that they were going to "try something out tonight that they've been planning this whole tour" (which ended up being a huge Mexican wave), you could tell they were having the time of their lives and were making the most of every moment they spent on that stage.
I will admit, I feel proud of this band. It sounds stupid, but after discovering them at a show in Swindon back in 2012 the week before their debut album released, it feels as though I've been watching this band take leaps and bounds through their career for a very long time. Hearing the reaction to 'Yeah Man', in which Rob sang the "oo-o oo-o oh" part (listen to the song, you'll know what I'm trying to spell out) and the crowd screamed back "yeah man", I've never felt prouder - you could see the appreciation and emotion plastered on the face of every member of the band, and I don't think I've ever seen four grown men happier.
Before the show, I had wondered if Brixton was going to be too big for Don Broco: they might have stepped out on to the stage and been dwarfed by the size of it, aiming too high too quickly. But I'm so glad that that wasn't the case. Maybe it was the crazy stage set-up, the beautiful lighting or the brilliant crowd reaction, but the show still felt intimate despite the size - you can tell that the band are going to go on and do even better things in even bigger venues, so it was a very special experience.
If you want to have fun, listen to a catchy track (or eighteen, whatever) and have one of the best nights of your life, you should definitely go to a Don Broco gig. I'm just looking forward to show number ten.

I Got Sick
You Wanna Know
What You Do To Me
Whole Truth (club sex intro)
Hold On
Keep On Pushing
Yeah Man
Fancy Dress ('Killing In The Name' outro)
Thug Workout
Let You Get Away
Money Power Fame
Further (with string quartet for final song and encore)

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