Monday, 7 March 2016

Sleeping With Sirens - Roundhouse, London, 06/03/16

This was my first time seeing a Sleeping With Sirens headline show, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was feeling dubious about the whole experience. I despised 'Madness' when it was released last year and I've only listened to the album all the way through once - I had no idea how it would translate to a live environment. Having three supports certainly took off the pressure, though, because I knew I'd enjoy at least one band in the evening!

I hadn't heard of Beach Weather before they were announced as the opener for this tour, but I had heard of Nick Santino, their lead vocalist (he was the lead singer for A Rocket To The Moon before their split in 2013). I didn't know what to expect from them, but with such a sunny name and an appearance on a bill such as this, I knew it was going to be the type of music that I would enjoy.
The first two songs actually blended in together. The sound was chilled and I can imagine relaxing with them on in the background, but that atmosphere doesn't work particularly well during the first songs from an opening act. I was enjoying Beach Weather, but I wasn't overly impressed.
However, that all changed with the new song they played: the only song whose title I don't know, bar the fact that it ended with the word 'Quick'. It was heavier, with more punk sensibilities than those displayed in the first two songs. The beat was much more pronounced, and with Nick nearly roaring into the microphone it was a very impressive shift from the laid back attitude they first displayed. It marked a turning point for their performance.
After that point, the energy in the set changed completely, getting the crowd more involved and ensuring everyone was paying attention. On 'Bad Seed', Nick encouraged the audience to "wake up and do some weird awkward interpretive dance on this next one", which certainly seemed to interest a lot of people. I don't know if Beach Weather were nervous during the first half of the set, because this is probably the biggest crowd that they've performed these songs to, but it was as though you could physically see them relax and trust in the music as the time went on. With Nick asking if the crowd were excited for the other bands in the evening, he quipped "I thought I said Sleeping With Simon: is there a Simon in here?" - certainly a memorable moment.
Closer 'Swoon' was the best song that they performed: has a powerful ending that must have grabbed the attention of every person in the audience, with Nick reaching a primal state as he caterwauled into the microphone, building the crowd into a frenzy.
This was Beach Weather's first visit to the UK, as they only officially debuted as a band in August 2015, but speaking to a couple of the band members after the set they shared that they were hoping to be back on our shores before the end of the year. If you haven't listened to them yet, I'd certainly recommend checking out their EP, 'What A Drag': you won't be disappointed.

New Skin
New song (--- Quick)
Bad Seed
Rebel Sun

I heard This Wild Life live at Slam Dunk 2015, but I didn't actually see them - the room was stuffed to capacity, so I was stood outside the room at the top of the stairs, struggling to hear them over the conversation of the crowd. Actually getting to see the band on stage was great, and they sounded brilliant... But I think the venue was a bad fit for them.
I hate needing to say that, because seeing them on a large stage is a brilliant achievement for an acoustic band who are still relatively new: their label debut, 'Clouded', only came out in 2014. With so many acoustic artists never gaining traction, their constant touring is a brilliant ethos and has certainly gathered them a respectable following. However, because a lot of the people in this room were waiting for As It Is and Sleeping With Sirens - heavier bands with more pop-punk leanings - a large part of their set was overshadowed by the rumble of voices. I don't know if that would have happened as obviously in a smaller venue or at a headline show, but it was disappointing as I'd been looking forward to This Wild Life the most.
For just two men, they have a remarkable amount of stage presence. Vocalist/guitarist Kevin Jordan and backing vocalist/guitarist (and part time drummer, as demonstrated on closing song 'Concrete') Anthony DelGrosso have brilliant chemistry, and with their musical prowess it's impossible to be unimpressed. The perfect way for them to show this was using their cover of 'Sleepwalking' by Bring Me The Horizon. The fact that Kevin introduced it by announcing that they were going to play Drake's 'Hotline Bling' made it even better, because you could see genuine confusion spreading throughout the room. Because it's normally a heavier song, hearing it stripped back and sang so purely was disconcerting in the best kind of way. Anthony's guitar playing on it was also exceptional: whereas a lot of the original is performed using synths and other effects, the style and the sound of the song on the guitar makes it that much more effective.
'No More Bad Days' was a poignant moment, as Kevin dedicated the song to his mother, Janice, who has both battled with cancer and raised her children by herself. As the show was on Mother's Day, it was very touching, made even more beautiful when Kevin referenced bands on Warped who always ask fans to put their phones away. He said "we do think that's pretty cool, but can you put all of your cellphones in the air for us?" and with all of the lights in the air it was a moment I'm sure the band will never forget.
As I mentioned earlier, Anthony actually ended up drumming through the end of closing song 'Concrete', and that certainly made it my highlight of their performance. I hadn't been expecting it - I knew he was a talented musician, but being good at the guitar is a completely different thing to being a multi-instrumentalist! I thought that the gradual build-up in the song leading to a heavier ending was the perfect way for them to wrap up their set; it added another element to their sound and made them stand out even more from the rest of the bands on the bill. This Wild Life might not have gotten the most energetic reaction, or commanded the most attention, but I think they were by far the best inclusion at this show.
I overheard a conversation that Kevin had with a fan after their set, in which he promised the band would be back over in UK in the winter. He couldn't give any more information regarding the news - whether a supporting slot, headline run or a festival appearance, I can't tell you - but it's something I'm already anticipating.

Ripped Away
Better With You
Sleepwalking (cover)
No More Bad Days
Puppy Love

I've missed As It Is live quite a few times in the last year. I haven't meant to, but life has gotten in the way, meaning that this show was my first chance to see the band in action. I'm going to be honest, I hadn't actually listened to As It Is before their performance, but I'd heard of them - mostly because of their vocalist, Patty Walters, who is a well-known "Youtube personality".
Apparently I was one of the only people in the audience who wasn't familiar with their material. From the intro track of Gwen Stefani's 'Hollaback Girl' through opening song 'Concrete', a large portion of the audience started singing along to every word and didn't stop through the entirety of their ten song set. I was vaguely familiar with the closing track 'Dial Tones', but apart from slow track 'My Oceans Were Lakes' all of the songs blended into one (particularly 'Turn Back To Me' and 'Can't Save Myself', which were played back to back with no break in between the songs).
If you've heard the phrase "generic pop punk", you can apply it perfectly to As It Is. Patty's vocal is unique, but that's because he has a whinging, nasal tone that doesn't lend itself well to mainstream success. I can't really comment on co-vocalist Benjamin Biss, because his microphone was turned down rather low and I could hardly hear him over Patty - he was definitely treated more like a backing vocalist than a co-vocalist, which is a shame when the songs often have splits to allow both of them a chance in the limelight. With Patty wearing the band's "Who the fuck is Patty Walters?" shirt, I really do feel that Ben deserves more recognition for the role he plays in the band, because the screaming response to all of Patty's movements just feels cringe-worthy.
The other thing that really screamed stereotype at me was Patty's performance during 'My Oceans Were Lakes'. It's the only slow song that they performed,
I just really don't understand the appeal with As It Is. With the hysterical reaction that they were gathering from the crowd it genuinely looks like they could be the next band with a cult-like following, but they don't have the songs to live up to the hype. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is I don't click with, because I really like Patty's vocal on his Youtube covers... I just don't think it works when it comes to original music. I can't fault his charisma or his stage presence, because he didn't stand still for the entirety of their set and effortlessly commanded the crowd to start jumping, but when you hear people shouting "He's so hot!" throughout the set it makes me wonder how far they would have gotten without that selling point.
As It Is have announced an extensive tour around the UK in which they'll play their EP, 'This Mind of Mine', and their aforementioned debut album in full. Jule Vera and With Confidence are supporting them - if you can get along to a show I'd recommend it for With Confidence alone, but it's also probably going to be the last time you'll catch As It Is in venues of this size (headlining a mere 500 capacity London show, compared to the 3,000 in the Roundhouse at this show).

Cheap Shots and Setbacks
Turn Back To Me
Can't Save Myself
My Oceans Were Lakes
Silence (Pretending's So Comfortable)
Speak Soft
Dial Tones

Despite being worried about how the Sleeping With Sirens set would go, I was still quite excited to see them. They were amazing when they performed on main stage at Reading festival in 2014, but because I'm not enamoured with any of their recent material I knew I would end up feeling disappointed: this is the tour to support 'Madness', so the set was very heavily skewed towards the new songs.
The volume on Kellin Quinn's microphone must have been cranked way down on opener 'Don't Say Anything' - you could hardly hear a word he was singing, which means I can't say anything good. The immediately energetic response from the crowd made up for it, and the problem was resolved within two songs, but it meant that would should have been a triumphant start to their set was a dampener.
Having nowhere to go but up the band definitely elevated the rest of their performance, rushing from song to song and hardly giving the crowd a moment to breathe. It's been a very long time since I've gotten so absorbed in a set that the time has flown past, but that certainly happened here. The crowd were screaming along to every word, so at points Kellin's vocal was inaudible from the sheer enthusiasm of the audience, but he joked "I don't even need to be here, you guys fucking got it!".
The first six songs that they performed were all from the new album, including bonus track 'Parasites', which was a nice surprise! I hadn't heard the song before, as I'd only ever listened to the normal edition of the album, but it was closer to what I'd been expecting from 'Madness', so I really enjoyed it. Kellin announced that it was the highest song he was going to perform all evening and he wasn't lying - it really did take his vocal to a completely different place. With drummer Gabe Barham donning a horse mask for the entirety of the song, it certainly wasn't a usual way to perform it, but it was just another sign of a band going crazy at the end of a long tour.
I found myself eagerly waiting for them to play some of their older material, but I didn't dislike the 'Madness' songs as much as I could remember. I haven't had a chance to listen to the album again since I've gotten home, but it seems as though it might have grown on me over the last year. However, as soon as they kicked in to 'Congratulations', I was much more content. I missed almost the entirety of the song at Reading (getting there for that last, powerful note) so getting to see it performed was a dream come true, and with Patty Walters coming back on stage to perform Matty Mullins' part of the song it was a moment I'll never forget. I hadn't particularly enjoyed Patty's vocal in the As It Is set, but his verse really impressed me - I don't think I'm ever going to understand why I only like his voice on covers, but this was more proof towards it.
Later in the set the band had another guest vocalist, whose identity I'm not actually sure of. Kellin introduced her before she walked out onto the stage, performing 'Scene Five: With Ears to See, and Eyes To Hear', but I didn't catch her name and I haven't been able to discern her identity since the show, either. However, it was a much less successful guest appearance than Patty's was: whereas his voice worked with the song, her vocal seemed as though it would be much more suited to country music and it actually ended up ruining the song for me. With this being one of my favourite Sleeping With Sirens songs, that was fairly hard to do - I just really didn't appreciate her tone or her attempt to change the phrasing of the lyrics, because it hardly made any sense.
I much more appreciated the second acoustic song that they played, though: their cover of 'Iris' by The Goo Goo Dolls. When I first started listening to Sleeping With Sirens I fell in love with Kellin's voice on this cover, despite the fact that I adore the original, and because they don't play it very often anymore it was wonderful when Kellin announced that they were going to add it in. He asked Alex Howard - a touring member who is currently filling in for full-time guitarist Justin Hills - if he could remember how to play it because it had been so long, and Alex proudly announced "Not at all!", but he did a brilliant job and the cover was note perfect. It was their second cover of the evening, with Kellin randomly performing the chorus of 'Killing Me Softly', citing that he "had to sing that because it's been stuck in my fucking head all day, I had to get it out". It was the best vocal moment he had all evening, but whether that's because of the song or the fact that he was completely acapella is something I'll never be certain about.
I didn't really have a highlight of the set, because the entire show was brilliantly done. I did think it was funny when Kellin said Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms in the room, announcing "if mom or dad brought you to the show please say thank you [...] your parents don't wanna hear this shit, I'm sure!" before quickly shouting "sorry mom and dad!" when guitarist Nick Martin shouted "if you're having a good time say fuck yeah".
I'm not going to lie to you, though: I was most impressed by Nick throughout the night. He's the newest member of Sleeping With Sirens, having only been part of the band for a couple of years, but he's definitely the most diverse. From playing acoustic guitar on 'Gold', to performing the unclean backing vocals on most of the songs, to drumming with Gabe on 'Left Alone', I couldn't believe how much he was getting up to. When a band have been together for a long time and another member joins, it can often feel disjointed - it was completely the opposite in this case, with Nick seeming like the most integral part of the band and definitely loving every moment of his time up on the stage. When Kellin asked how he was enjoying the show, he said "I feel fucking great being in London, I love it here!", and you could tell that he meant every word. He might be the newest member, but he's certainly not under-appreciated.
I hadn't experienced a Sleeping With Sirens headline show before, but I can certainly see why their trajectory has been so severe: being able to perform like this live is a surefire way to appeal to fans. I thought they were good at Reading, but this was on a complete other level. At the end of the set, during 'If You Can't Hang', Kellin stated "Best show of the tour. Not gonna bullshit anybody, best show of the tour", so they definitely went out on a high note - I'm glad I was there to experience it.
The band are playing Reading festival again this year, and while I'll be checking out their set there, I'm also hoping to be able to attend the one-off acoustic performance at Union Chapel that they announced at this show. With State Champs supporting (and Kellin also mentioning Set It Off: not official yet, but it sounds as though the bands are doing something together this year...) it's a show that shouldn't be missed, and if I can attend I will attend.

Don't Say Anything
Kick Me
We Like It Loud
Go Go Go
Better Off Dead
Congratulations (ft. Patty Walters)
Left Alone
Killing Me Softly (partial cover)
The Strays
Scene Five: With Ears To See, and Eyes To Hear (ft. ?)
Iris (cover)
If I'm James Dean, You're Audrey Hepburn
Do It Now Remember It Later
If You Can't Hang

If you were at the Roundhouse and have any idea who the guest vocalist performing on 'With Ears To See, and Eyes To Hear' was, please contact me! 

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