Friday, 19 August 2016

Don Broco - Priorities x Automatic, Motion Bristol, 15-16/08/2016

Normally I would write these album in full shows as two separate reviews, but due to a lack of time and a supremely busy week approaching, I thought it would be worth combining this into the ultimate Don Broco album in full review post. 

London upstarts Massmatiks were the support for every night of the tour, so going into this I knew I was going to be seeing them twice. I wasn't surprised at all that they nearly played the same set both nights (choosing to switch out one song towards the end of the set) because they've only been around since 2012 - they don't have enough material to be able to do two completely different sets.
Despite tweeting the band to find out their stage time, I still missed the beginning the first night: I'm not sure if a lot of people decided to turn up after doors opened or if the queue was just that crazy, but for the first song and a half of their set I was waiting outside to get my tickets checked. I could vaguely hear them, because the doors to the venue opened out into the courtyard where we were waiting, so I'm fairly certain the setlist is correct (if you were there and it's wrong, please let me know!).

When I finally got through the door I was blown away by the ferociousness of Massmatiks onstage attitude. I've listened to both 'Gunning For You' and '4am' as these shows approached, wanting to get myself familiar with some of their material, but as studio recordings they're verging on lackluster. 
At a live show life is breathed into the songs, and based on the crowd reaction to both this is definitely a band that you need to experience rather than passively listen to.
I really appreciated getting to hear more of their material. 'Blank Walls' blew me away with its social commentary about keyboard warriors and the fact that "suddenly everyone knows everything about politics recently, and now the football's started everyone's a football manager, when really they know fuck all!". The catchy refrain "no one tells a lion how to hunt, no one tells a fish how to swim" has been cycling round my head for the last three days: their lyrics are simple, but because of that they're memorable and it won't take many listens before you're singing along to every word.
There's a video for 'Independence (A Lack Of)' on Youtube, but I hadn't listened to it before, so five of the songs in this seven song set were brand new to me. I wasn't surprised by the reaction to that as a closer - with it's "brap-ba-da-da" singalong it's infectious and impossible to resist dancing to. Vocalist George Peploe also managed to demonstrate the potential that he already has as a frontman by getting the crowd to crouch down and jump back up again, announcing "we've done this at every show so far and it's fucking gone off!". When small bands try to get the crowd involved in that sort of action you often find that the first few rows of people will happily get involved, but the majority of people will sit it out: thanks to the enthusiasm of Don Broco's fans and the small venue, almost everyone in attendance was down as soon as George suggested it. They're very lucky to be experiencing this kind of reaction so early on, and if they keep the ball rolling and release more music soon (particularly the aforementioned 'Blank Walls', which George shared they're soon going into the studio to record) it's going to be no time at all before these guys explode. 

When George challenged the audience to go home and listen to the songs they'd already released, stating "you got 24 hours to learn some of 'em", I knew the set they did on their second night was going to be even more energetic.
Luckily I managed to get in to the venue for the start, but with the queue still going around the block outside the room got sweatier and tighter as their set progressed. The crowd were a lot more involved the second night, moshing their way through 'Gunning For You' and chanting along to almost every word of 'Blank Walls'.
Whereas the first night they played a song about setting foot in a club and just wanting to go home (which George proudly announced had "a really filthy riff in"), the second night they switched it out, replacing it with the Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes-esque 'Don't Be A Coward'. With George pacing up and down on the stage roaring into the microphone, you could definitely see Frank's stage presence coming through. Massmatiks have a lot of choice in front of them, because their heavier songs are just as well received as '4am' with its singable hook: at this point they could go in any direction, or keep experimenting with the range of music that they're already beginning to produce.
I'd thought the reaction to 'Independence (A Lack Of)' couldn't be better than it was the first night, but that was before the appearance of Don Broco's vocalist, Rob Damiani. Bursting on to the stage and encouraging the crowd to bounce along with him, it only took minutes before both Rob and George were diving onto the crowd and surfing over them. It's always great when the last night of a tour is a celebration of the friendship that the bands have forged over the preceding weeks, and thanks to this stage invasion it's not going to be a set that I easily forget.

I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye on Massmatiks as they release more music: there's something different about these guys, and if they keep doing their own thing they could make a real impact.

Setlist (Night 1):
Bad Luck
Gunning For You
Blank Walls
- (One Foot)
Independence (A Lack Of)

Setlist (Night 2):
Bad Luck
Gunning For You
Blank Walls
- (Don't Be A Coward)
Independence (A Lack Of)

When Rob Damiani announced "might never, ever play" a lot of these songs again, the appreciation for Priorities went through the roof. Opening with the title track meant the majority of the crowd were already involved, but knowing that it was the last tour that was going to feature certain songs - the final show playing the debut album in full - the attendees rallied behind the band and were 100% on board for the rest of the night.
I've been to a lot of Don Broco shows. I'm not just saying that: these were my 11th and 12th shows respectively. I've been there since before 'Priorities' was released, following the band through multiple appearances at Reading Festival, a triumphant headline set at Brixton O2 Academy and a surprisingly successful return to Download back in June.
I fell in love with these songs first time around, so getting to hear them live (uninterrupted by recent material which found itself confined to the encore, including 'You Wanna Know' and 'Money Power Fame' - both songs which were released in between the two albums) gave me a lot to reminisce on.
I knew I wasn't going to be able to write a subjective review about this first show, because I'm so emotionally attached to this album. It's a very strong debut: with its signature 'Cheeky Nandos' lyrical style it practically birthed the recent uprising of bro-rock bands (it's becoming a genre, don't think about arguing). Combining that relatable, matey attitude with Simon Delaney's funky guitar rhythms and the complementary vocal coming from drummer Matt Donnelly - it all cemented the fact that these four Bedford lads were going to be something very special.
Looking back on this album now, almost four years to the day since its release, it's obvious that good things have happened. To being touring two albums in full and selling out every show on the tour is no small achievement, particularly when the musical style between the two is so vastly different. There's the rocky punch in the face that is 'Priorities', contrasting to the "let's drink punch by the pool" that is 'Automatic'. People who have been fans from the band from the beginning still want to support them, while they're gaining new fans by the bucketload (as exemplified by the fact that 'Automatic' managed to enter the album charts at #6 upon its release).
I can't critique a moment of this set. The songs worked the first time around, and they still work now. The appearance of 'In My World' - which Rob admitted the band had had to learn specifically for this tour as they'd never played it live before - was refreshing, particularly when you look at where it sat in the set. Preceded by the frenetic 'Let's Go Back To School', followed by 'Fancy Dress' with its huge circle pit and ferocious bite, it gave everyone a second to catch their breath and enjoy a toned down singalong. It definitely made sense of the fact that the band weren't playing the album in the order it was originally released - it makes a lot more sense for them to be arranged like this at a live show.
It was disappointing when Rob shared "we're gonna take a little time after this and not do a headline tour straight away", because it does seem as though they're starting to get pigeon-holed as a support band: there was the uber-successful run with You Me At Six, followed by lengthy runs with 5 Seconds of Summer and Bring Me The Horizon. But after playing two albums in full this many nights in a row, I think the band deserve a bit of a break. I'm hoping they're going to go away and start working on more new music: we need an album three, and we need it as soon as they can release it.
Oh, and talking of new music...
I was only lucky enough to hear 'Everybody' on the first night. The set had quite a late finish time, and with a train at 10:35 I wasn't able to stay until the end of either show, which was disappointing (I didn't think I'd ever need to leave a Don Broco set without hearing 'Thug Workout') but we risked staying through the interminable 8 minute break between the band leaving the stage and returning to play their newest single.
If you haven't heard 'Everybody' yet, I highly suggest you do that. As soon as I heard it I was struck by the fact that it could comfortably fit on 'Priorities' - compared to the relaxed nature of recent tracks, it's full to the brim with the swagger that inhabits their early songs. The "what you waiting for" chants don't work as well live (yet - it has only been out for a matter of weeks so that's something that's going to grow as the song gets older) but other than that the song is already going down brilliantly.
Two things about it really impressed me: Matt Donnelly's note-perfect vocal opening, and Rob Damiani violently screaming the lyrics "we are fucked this time, fuck!". I've always loved 'Thug Workout' because it's completely uncontrolled, hinting towards Don Broco having heavier roots, and this almost-screamo moment mimicked that intensity in a more mature and developed way. If Don Broco choose to go back down the heavier root with their new material, I'm going to be more than happy.  

Back in the Day
Yeah Man
Hold On 
Here's The Thing
Let's Go Back To School
In My World
Fancy Dress
You Got It Girl
Whole Truth
You Wanna Know
Money Power Fame
Thug Workout

The turnout was obviously going to be pretty much equal because of the fact that both shows were sold out, but I'd expected the reaction to Automatic to be tamer, particularly after experiencing the insanity that was the first night.
Yes, the album charted rather highly, but musically it's much calmer than 'Priorities' so I didn't know how it would translate in full live. I'd seen odd songs from the album live, but never such a large, uninterrupted chunk of them - it always seemed to be the songs from 'Priorities' that would breathe life back into the crowd after the newer songs gave them a bit of chill out time.
That doesn't seem to be the case with all fans, and I actually think the 'Automatic' evening was a much sweatier experience, even if it was less rowdy. There wasn't as much moshing but with a large portion of the crowd jumping up and down constantly, the temperature soared. 'Priorities' is a much more physical album, but 'Automatic' is definitely a vocal one.
Songs like 'Fire', 'You Wanna Know' and 'Nerve' beg you to sing along, while 'Superlove' and 'Keep on Pushing' are just waiting for you to dance. I've listened to the album a lot in the past but I haven't listened to it in full very often - it's one of those collections of songs that I like to dip in and out of, rather than experiencing in its entirety every time. Experiencing it like this has definitely made me reevaluate my opinion on it: before I was a little lukewarm, but it makes more sense to me as an album now.
Being the last night of the tour, it was very special to experience. Massmatiks had to leave early, so they had the tour photo taken in the middle of the set rather than at the end, and based on all of the hugging on stage it seems that lifelong friendships have been made over the last couple of weeks. It wasn't all bittersweet, though, with the end of tour pranks being out in force: Rob apologised in case he was pulling weird faces while he was singing, confiding "our lovely guitar tech Jase stealthily put a condom on my microphone," complaining "it's going to smell this whole set!". He then shared the best prank, "the stupidest most infantile joke", that he knew with the crowd: "lay a condom on their shoulder when they're not looking [...] they're having a conversation and they think they're bossing it, when there's a lone condom...".
There were also two beautiful, fan-centered moments later in the set. Rob dedicated 'What You Do To Me' to Ashley, who drew the band in the recent sketches of them as cowboy outlaws that they shared on their Instagram, stating that her artwork was "the coolest we've ever seen in person". They also invited a fan up on stage with them before 'Money Power Fame' - it turns out her appendix had almost burst the night before, and after staying in hospital until 7am she'd returned to the venue to start getting ready for this night. Don Broco are a band that deserve that kind of dedication: their hard work is definitely paying off in a big way.
I managed to stay until the end of 'Nerve', so heard the album in full, but couldn't wait for the encore due to the train time: I can imagine it was an explosive, and extremely memorable, way to end what's been a brilliant tour. Not many bands can pull off album in full shows this early in their career (let alone playing two!) and it proves how ballsy these guys are. I can't wait to see what they do next.

Keep on Pushing
Tough on You
You Wanna Know
What You Do To Me
Let You Get Away
I Got Sick
Money Power Fame
Thug Workout

Don Broco were recently announced as the main support for Bring Me The Horizon's November tour, and I'm so grateful that I have tickets to it. I've only just seen these two shows, and I'm already ready for another one! Seeing this band in small venues always reinvigorates my love for them, and after the huge festival appearances I've experienced recently it was so lovely to get back to basics. 

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