Saturday, 13 February 2016

All Time Low - O2 Arena, 11/02/16

I'd been looking forward to seeing Against The Current for a while (so much so that I featured them on New Music Monday earlier this week) but I ended up being rather underwhelmed by their set. Squeezing seven songs into their half an hour stage time - including unreleased track 'Forget Me Now' and a cheeky cover of 'Uptown Funk' by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson - I enjoyed their show, but there seemed to be a bit of a disconnect that stopped me from completely falling in love with them as a live band.
I think the problem was the fact that they seemed too polished to be an opening act. You might ask how that can be a bad thing: surely the better a band performs live, the better the show is? And Against The Current were musically perfect. There were no flaws, no blips, and vocalist Chrissy Costanza hit every note with an ease that's hard to find even in the most established live artists. They were so good that it felt as though it could have been their headline show... But their songs just didn't match up to that standard.
Their best song was definitely 'Forget Me Now', which hints towards good things for the future of the band - their lyrical capabilities seem to have progressed from the 'Gravity' EP, and they're musically developing strongly too. However, the other songs did have a rather juvenile feel. That is acceptable, because the band are all only just exiting their teenage years, but at times their set felt a bit too Disney for me: particularly 'Dreaming Alone', which features the lyrics "Is it me that you see when you fall asleep? 'Cause I know it's you I dream about every night".
Yes, I know I'm being critical, but it just means that I'm more excited to see how their debut album turns out. They have a lot of promise and potential as a live band (particularly exhibited during the aforementioned 'Uptown Funk' cover, which they smashed), but they just need a bit more lyrical substance in their songs to really take full advantage of that fact - hopefully that'll come with the release of the album.

Running With The Wild Things
Forget Me Now
Dreaming Alone
Uptown Funk cover

On the flipside, Good Charlotte had the most experience out of any of the bands on the bill, but were the least polished. Being the heaviest band on the line-up, it was nice to have something rockier to dance to, and with their more punk than pop sensibilities and their rough around the edges sound, it definitely helped make them my favourite out of the two supporting bands.
Playing eleven songs in their set, I'm ashamed to admit that I couldn't actually remember four of them: namely 'The Story of My Old Man', 'My Bloody Valentine' 'Riot Girl' and 'The Young and the Hopeless'. I know I must have heard them at some point in the past, but because it's been so long since I've actively listened to Good Charlotte that it was nice to rediscover their music in a live environment.
By playing all of their most successful early 00's singles, the crowd were all dancing and singing along, having a whale of a time, but the energy did not lag at all during the set. New song 'Makeshift Love' was particularly well-received, and if it's any indication of how their sixth album is going to sound then I am extremely excited about it. My personal highlight of the set is torn between 'The River' and 'I Just Wanna Live' - the former is hands down my favourite Good Charlotte song, whereas the latter was extremely fun, and hearing main vocalist Joel Madden hit those insane high notes was a moment I'd been waiting a very long time to experience.
The camaraderie between Good Charlotte and All Time Low definitely brought a great atmosphere to this tour, increasing the fun level of the show exponentially. With guitarist and co-vocalist Benji Madden stating that he was very excited about the show because someone special was watching: "it's my son, he's in a band, he's in a band called All Time Low, his name is Jack" (to which the girl standing next to me screaming "REALLY?!") it was made all the more humorous when Jack ran out on stage and him and Benji casually starting taking selfies. Joel then announced "if any of you need dads, we will adopt all of you because we're fucking awesome!", before getting the crowd to record a video message shouting "We love you Lionel!" for his father-in-law Lionel Richie, who has a love of the UK and London in particular.
Sending a message to Lionel made their set unquestionably the most A-list of the evening, which was proven further with both Nicole Richie and Cameron Diaz, Benji's wife, watching from side stage, and Jessie J attending the concert too - the band dedicated 'Dance Floor Anthem' to her, thanking her for flying in especially to see them perform.
For a band that have been around for so long, Good Charlotte were very thankful to the crowd, stating that the crowd were responsible for keeping all of the bands and their members alive, except All Time Low's drummer, Rian "who is really, really good-looking. He could totally be a model". Being humble can never be a bad thing, and for a band who experienced such a crazy fast rise to fame - shown through their intro tape, which featured interviews and clips of their career so far - it's surprising, but makes it a lot easier to love them.
Closing the set with 'Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous' was absolutely insane: Joel announced to the crowd "We played the Barfly, we played the Koko, we played Brixton, we played Roundhouse, but I want to take it back to 2002/2003, and have the biggest pop punk mosh pit the O2 Arena has ever seen", and with three mosh pits breaking out within moments it was extremely exciting. It would have been easy to mistake this for a Good Charlotte headline show, because it seemed like the majority of the crowd were fully on board with them - they received the best reaction for a support band that I've seen in quite a while.
I, for one, am beyond glad that Good Charlotte are back. Their hiatus might have only lasted four years, but it's good that they've returned and are already busy creating their new album and touring. Announcing on stage that they'd be "back in the fall", I've got all of my fingers crossed that they might be appearing at Reading and Leeds festival, because there's no doubt in my mind that I need to see Good Charlotte again.

The Anthem
The Story of My Old Man
My Bloody Valentine
Girls and Boys
Riot Girl
Makeshift Love
The Young and the Hopeless
The River
Dance Floor Anthem
I Just Wanna Live
Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous

When 'Future Hearts' was released, I was pretty disappointed. I'd been expecting amazing things from All Time Low following their lukewarm previous album 'Don't Panic', but the majority of the songs just didn't work as recordings - I wrote in that review that I was looking forward to hearing them live, because I was certain it was going to shift my perspective of the album.
Playing nine songs from their most recent release, I'm afraid to say that their set didn't change my opinion about 'Future Hearts' - in fact, it completely cemented what I'd previously stated. I've never found myself being bored at an All Time Low show before, but during 'Dancing With A Wolf', 'Runaways' and 'Tidal Waves' that was exactly what I felt.
However, I still enjoyed the two singles ('Kids In The Dark' and 'Something's Gotta Give' respectively) and 'Missing You', which was definitely the song that stood out the most in the entire set. The song started off with vocalist Alex Gaskarth stood alone on the stage playing his acoustic guitar, before bassist Zack Merrick joined him to perform a beautiful backing vocal (which definitely makes me think Zack needs more of a chance to let his voice shine). When it eventually did kick in, it was a tender and emotional moment, but because the song is so catchy it wasn't a depressing one: compared to the heart-breaking melancholy of 'Therapy', 'Missing You' really embodies hope and optimism for addicts battling with their demons and those who are supporting them.
Meanwhile, 'Bail Me Out' was very catchy, though I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much if it hadn't been for the special guest re-appearance of Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, who features on the track. With the two bands touring together it wasn't too surprising of an occurrence, but Joel's voice worked with Alex's extremely well, and it was a very special moment. Closing the main set with 'Old Scars/Future Hearts' was also a great choice. It's one of the strongest songs on the album, and it was a brilliant way to wrap up the bulk of the set, before what turned out to be a fairly standard encore.
The show definitely didn't help 'Future Hearts' to appeal to me, but I also found myself getting fairly irritated by all of the standard stage banter. If you go to an All Time Low show, you can expect lots of references to boobies and blowjobs: it might have been funny when I first saw them, back when I was fifteen, but now it just seems like overkill. Most of the jokes are recycled, meaning that it's not as effective once you've been to see them multiple times anyway, but with the bulk of their fanbase still being girls in their very early teenage years, it's all a bit inappropriate. As the band grow up, I kind of wish that they could mature their stage show too - it seems as though that wish is never going to be granted.
I know, I know, that's part of the "charm" of All Time Low! Asking that to change is asking the band to stop being themselves! But when the banter is getting uncomfortable, awkward and badly timed, it feels as though it would be the best thing for everyone if they just stopped, or at least started phasing it out. There were some humorous moments (most obviously when guitarist Jack Barakat commented that Alex had his "2005 hair" on and when Alex responded that he just "[popped it] on like a Lego guy" Jack decided to sing "Everything is awesome" a tad too enthusiastically) but when the majority of the interaction with the crowd is just Jack rating the sizes of the other member's members (Rian being the biggest, with "a mini sausage, a cocktail sausage") it was all just a bit too eye-roll worthy.
The biggest problem is... Even with the bland new songs and the irritating blowjob banter, this was still the best I'd seen All Time Low perform. Whereas last year they played the O2 Arena on a co-headline tour with You Me At Six, playing it as their own headline show was a much bigger deal and they definitely took advantage of the opportunity. Jack announced "The You Me At Six tour was fucking cool, Wembley was fucking cool, Reading and Leeds was fucking awesome, but this is probably my favourite fucking show we've ever done" and it's definitely my favourite show of their's that I've experienced. With more fireworks and fire than I'd seen for a very long time (so much so that Rian Dawson's drums were still flaming a few seconds after the plume went up), it was pretty obvious that their budget had been increased, and they weren't holding back on the stage production. To start the set - and to re-enter after going off for the encore - a platform lifted the band up from underneath the stairs in a classic boyband maneuver: the giant staircase taking up most of the stage was rather distracting, but at least they incorporated it in a rather impressive fashion.
Similarly, their setlist was the most diverse I'd experienced (having seen them seven times, that's pretty impressive!) with the re-introduction of 'Coffee Shop Soundtrack' and the surprise appearance of 'Poppin' Champagne' being the highlights of my night, and while it was obviously skewed in favour of the new tracks they still managed to make sure there was something for everyone (well, apart from fans of 'Dirty Work', which was the only album that they completely skipped over).
However, I do wonder if this upgrade to the O2 Arena was a little bit rushed. The You Me At Six co-headline show sold out after quite a few months, but with Alex referencing the fact that there were "10,000" people in the crowd, it sounded like they'd only sold half of the tickets that were available - the O2 Arena generally has a capacity of 20,000, which would have only been slightly reduced due to the installation of the walkway through the center of the crowd. To really be a band worthy of this size venue they need to pull something more out of the bag with their next album: selling out Wembley is a breeze for them, so those extra 7,000 tickets shouldn't be that difficult. Combine this with the fact that Alex admitted "the energy might be a bit better up [in the seats]"... The crowd reaction wasn't as impressive as it could have been, even with the three mosh pits that broke out during 'Weightless' that definitely rivaled the ones Good Charlotte caused.
With Jack announcing that the band were playing Download festival at the end of their set, it won't be too long until All Time Low are back on our shores. If they don't get killed at the festival (come on, it's Download, they're going to be playing to a much tougher crowd than their usual!) it probably won't be too long before they're plotting another headline tour: the likelihood is that I'll go along, but I'm hoping to experience a slightly different show next time around. If you haven't seen All Time Low live yet, I'd recommend it - if nothing else it'll be a fun night with plenty of singalong moments and brilliant support bands, even if the conversations are rather cringey.

Kids In The Dark
A Love Like War
Dancing With A Wolf
Backseat Serenade
Lost In Stereo
Poppin' Champagne
Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)
Tidal Waves
Bail Me Out (ft. Joel Madden)
Missing You
Don't You Go
Coffee Shop Soundtrack
Old Scars/Future Hearts
Something's Gotta Give
Dear Maria, Count Me In
(Hooked On A Feeling played as band walked out) 

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