Saturday, 3 December 2016

Pierce The Veil - Brixton O2 Academy, 27/11/16

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Hanging out in Brixton before the show, I wouldn't have been blamed for assuming this was a Creeper headline show. I saw more people with their distinctive Callous Heart back patch than I saw people wearing Pierce The Veil shirts, and when vocalist Will Gould came skipping out on to the stage the screams were ear-piercing. 
They managed to get the first circle pit of the night going during 'The Honeymoon Suite', and despite the fact that new single 'Suzanne' has only been out for a little over a month the majority of people in the room were singing along to every word (even though the chorus still sounds like screeching cats meowing to me...). Will was humbled by the reaction, as he normally is: this man doesn't seem able to accept the success that the band are experiencing. He thanked the crowd at multiple points, taking the time after 'Valentine' to shout "Thank you so much, Brixton! That's fucking awesome!" in response to the crowd's response to their set, and dedicating closer 'Misery' to Pierce The Veil for bringing them on the tour, saying that it was "absolutely wild" and "so fucking great to be here". He also shared that "in the two years we've been doing this band, this is our favourite tour we've ever been on", stating that playing with letlive. meant playing with "some of the best people we've ever met, some of the best friends we've ever met" before dedicating 'Astral Projection' to them. I don't think the folks in Creeper are capable of disliking anyone.
Their success is mind-blowing, particularly when you consider that their debut album, 'Eternity In Your Arms', isn't set to be released until the end of March. Reminding the crowd that they'd only been around for two years just hammers home the fact that they're experiencing a very strange and rapid trajectory, and I'm interested to see where they'll be in two years time. 

Black Mass
The Honeymoon Suite
Astral Projection

Have you ever seen a grown man tear a carpet from the ground and throw it at a crowd of people? 
Well, I guess that means you haven't been to a letlive. show then!
Jason Aalon Butler proved himself to be one of the world's most energetic frontmen once again.
Moments after coming on stage he'd thrown his microphone stand into the air and leaped into the crowd, screaming his heart out as tech guys flooded the stage and frantically attempted to fix his destruction, trying to both reassemble the stand and keep his trailing microphone wire elevated above the heads of the crowd.
Most frontmen take the time to climb back on to the stage in a sensible manner, but not Jason! He launched himself and landed on his back, rolling over and stumbling to his feet, still relentlessly screaming as he wandered back towards the centre of the stage. He stopped for a moment to take a drink of water then decided to pour his drink all over himself, writhing sexily under the stream of liquid, all the while wrapping his microphone wire tighter and tighter around his throat. 
Then he broke out into a brief cover of Michael Jackson's 'Man In The Mirror'. 
And all of that happened during 'Renegade '86'. 
Saying it was an explosive way to start the set would be an understatement. It was the most exciting five minutes I've ever experienced in my life, and while it would have been completely understandable if the rest of the set had been disappointing, it just kept getting better. The carpet incident happened during 'That Fear Fever', after a brief game of bounce the drumstick - which resulted in Jason launching it across the stage at drummer Loniel Robinson's head - and after Jason had casually walked through almost the entirety of the crowd, heedless of the cable still trailing his every step, stood on random members of the audience towards the back of the room and simply fallen backwards, allowing them to catch him and deposit him safely on the floor.
Then it was time for the carpet to feel his wrath. Clambering gracelessly back on to the stage once more, he rolled to the floor, tugging at one of the corners with a furious look on his face. It rolled back easily, making it question why a badly fixed carpet was needed on the stage, but before I could question it too deeply Jason was wrapping himself up in it, wearing it like the world's most uncomfortable snuggie blanket. He obviously agreed that it wasn't the most sensible costume to wear while performing, but instead of putting the carpet back down he launched it into the crowd, the heavy material landing on the audience with an audible thwack. It's testament to how much people adore and respect letlive. that there were no complaints about his reckless behaviour. It was the highlight of my evening. 
But letlive. don't rely too heavily on Jason's stage antics. They're touring to support their new album 'If I'm The Devil...', which was released back in June, and based on the reaction to the newer songs - which Jason toned down his performance to effectively showcase - they're doing a damn good job of attracting new fans with each album they put out. They seem to be taking a stand with their new album, particularly where 'Reluctantly Dead' is concerned (the only song which featured Jason playing guitar as well as singing), and he isn't afraid to bring their new-found politicism into their live show. He went as far as encouraging the crowd to chant "Fuck Donald Trump" after announcing that letlive. "don't believe in bigotry, we don't believe in hate, we don't believe in war", and that political strand is also weaved through 'Good Mourning, America', which targets gun crime statistics. 
But compared to the overt messages in those two songs, the other two new releases they chose to put in their set had a completely different feel.
Introducing 'A Weak Ago', Jason explained that it was written "in memoriam of a town where we grew up" and asked "if you have any interest in music as an art form, as an expression, then we implore you to jump up and down like they would have in the 90s". 
Then there was the only slow song they performed, 'Foreign Cab Rides', which Jason introduced poignantly, sharing his vulnerabilities by admitting "I spent a lot of my life believing that romance and love was just something they wrote about, something in the movies. I believed it was unattainable, and I told myself I wasn't deserving of it. But nights like this? I feel love." Following the round of applause from the crowd, he enthused "Every single person in this room is deserving of love in some capacity, but most importantly make sure to give love to yourselves. Be good to yourselves." The contrast between the maniac wearing a carpet at the start of the set and this open and emotional version of Jason is one of the reasons people respect him so much: he knows how to put on a show, but he also knows that he's human, and he's allowed to show his softer side. 
But it didn't last for long. As soon as 'Banshee (Ghost Fame)' started he was back to his crazily energetic ways, inciting the biggest circle pit of the night so far before rolling an amp on to the stage, taking a moment to ride it like an extremely wobbly and tall skateboard before bellyflopping on top of it and launching himself across the stage, nearly colliding with the drum kit AND one of the guitarists during his journey. 
How he gets away with doing things like that on stage, I'll never know. 
He was completely out of breath following the non-stop action, merely saluting the crowd as he unbuttoned his shirt, panting heavily at the back of the stage before stepping forward to introduce penultimate track 'Muther'. Jason has no qualms about speaking on stage, and he took the opportunity to call out any misogynists or sexists in the crowd before the song started. He asked if he could take a moment to speak to any women in the room, then announced "This world is going to act like you owe them something. [...] Women? You don't owe this world shit. You are the reason this world spins around and around, don't let no man tell you otherwise. Men in this room, if you feel entitled to take this from a woman emotionally, mentally - even more detrimentally, physically - I'll be around this whole evening to punch you in your motherfucking face." 
I hadn't thought the applause and cheers that they'd been receiving throughout their set could get any louder, but the reaction to this statement was raucous, and Jason had to stop speaking for a couple of minutes to allow the crowd to calm down. He wrapped up his speech by sharing that "the only two people in this world who taught me to be a man were two women" and dedicated the song to his mother and sister, before inviting Hannah Greenwood from Creeper back on to the stage to perform the part of the female co-vocalist. After Hannah left the stage Jason followed her, disappearing for a couple of minutes before appearing on the balcony to the side of the seating area upstairs in the venue. 
When Jason eventually returned to the stage, it was time for letlive.'s last song, the previously mentioned 'Good Mourning, America'. Of course, Jason couldn't pass up on the opportunity to finish the set with a bang, and after he climbed up on to the drum kit he launched himself backwards, breaking the kit into pieces while Loniel was still playing. There were still circle pits going on as the band finished, the crowd seeming unwilling for their set to finish, and I don't think it'll be long at all before letlive. are headlining this venue. Sets from support bands don't get better than this.  

Renegade '86 (+ Man In The Mirror snippet)
That Fear Fever
A Weak Ago
Foreign Cab Rides
The Dope Beat
Reluctantly Dead
Banshee (Ghost Fame)
Muther (ft. Hannah Greenwood)
Good Mourning, America

After letlive.'s consistently explosive performance, Pierce The Veil had a lot to live up to. With a screen unfurling to cover the stage while they were setting up it was obvious that they were getting ready to pull something special out of the bag, but with so many people in the audience only attending to see the support acts, the headliners had a fight on their hands. 
The screen had an animation projected on to it, illustrations in the style of the cover of 'Misadventures' showing a rocket flying through the sky hitting pigeons against its windscreen, exploring the depths of the oceans and eventually crashlanding in London. When the stage was revealed it showed a broken rocket framing Mike Fuentes' drums, the four members of Pierce The Veil climbing out from the windows and the wreckage in astronaut suits before diving in to 'Dive In', their most recent single (the video for which was released days before the show).
The first half of the set was a mixed bag of material. Bringing back old favourites 'Caraphernalia' and 'Bulletproof Love' (during which vocalist Vic Fuentes picked a fan called Lauren out of the crowd to sing the first verse to, shouting that it was his "favourite part of the night right now!" when he sat her on a stool and sang directly to her as she cried her eyes out), they then chose to include the beautifully tender acoustic 'Kissing In Cars', a surprise for a set that was favouring their heavier songs until that point.
Vic shared the story behind 'Kissing In Cars' while the other members set up their acoustic instruments, admitting "This one wasn't meant to be heard by anybody in the world. This was supposed to be a wedding present for Jaime's best friend." He went on to explain that Jaime's friend gave them a list of words that reminded him of his soon-to-be wife and asked, "Can you make a song out of these words?". "We wrote this for them. Now here we are ten years later singing this to all you here in London," Vic yelled to rapturous applause, and he was blown away by the reaction when every person in the room started chanting the words back to him, admitting "I don't think I've ever heard this many people sing at once in my life."
They played a good amount of their new album: as well as 'Dive In', they included 'Texas Is Forever', 'The Divine Zero' and 'Floral and Fading' in the main part of their set (the latter which Vic shared he wrote "for [his] girlfriend Danielle. She's here somewhere tonight, she flew all the way from California to be here!", before pointing directly at her towards the back of the room, crooning "Oh, I see you girl."), putting 'Circles' in the encore to break up the chunk of songs from 'Collide With The Sky'. The fans don't seem to have fully accepted the new songs just yet, the yelling and cheering reactions reserved for the older songs that they played, but if they keep performing them this solidly it won't take long before they become set staples. I'm interested to see which songs from 'Misadventures' they choose to include in their set when they play Download festival next summer.
They neatly split their set into two, taking a moment at the end of 'Kissing In Cars' to walk off of the stage and have their new 'Misadventures' backdrop switched with one featuring the 'Collide With The Sky' artwork. Their third album is still their most popular - their new album having flown under the radar in comparison - and it's refreshing to see a band that accept that their audience want to hear older material and not just the new album that they're currently touring. Whereas they could have put in more songs from the new album and received a less enthusiastic response, they know what their fans want to hear and are not afraid to cater to that.
Because of their support band, one song was guaranteed to make it into the set: 'Tangled In The Great Escape', which features Jason Aalon Butler. Despite the fact that he'd just played a relentless set of his own, his energy level wasn't diminished and it was the most successful song Pierce The Veil played. "It's very rare that we play that song, and we only do it when we tour with letlive.," Vic shared, and as it was always my favourite song on 'Collide With The Sky' I became even more grateful that I'd been able to attend this show.
Halfway through the set, Vic took a moment to thank the crowd, saying "This is the most special show to us that we've ever played in our career. We've been a band for about ten years now and this is the biggest headline show we've played in our entire careers.". It made his message during 'The Divine Zero' even more inspirational: "You don't have to grow up to do the thing that you love, you can do it right fucking now."
Pierce The Veil are doing what they love. It's obvious from the chemistry between the four members (completed by bassist and backing vocalist Jaime Preciado and guitarist Tony Perry) that there's no inner turmoil or tension that could possibly bring these four down. For a band who've never had a personnel change it's surprising that they still get along so easily after a decade, and their onstage interactions are still fun to watch - particularly when Vic pointed his guitar at Jaime like it was a gun, causing him to fall to the floor and lie motionless before bouncing back into action and leaping across the stage. This band won't repeat themselves, constantly striving to further their stage show and surprise their fans on every tour. Can you point to another band who would climb out of a rocket to take to the stage?
Some people have dismissing Pierce The Veil due to the lack of chart success experienced by 'Misadventures', but I think that's naive. They're not likely to release another album like 'Collide With The Sky', but they're still getting stronger with every year that they stay together.

Dive In 
Texas Is Forever
The Divine Zero
Bulletproof Love
Floral and Fading
Kissing In Cars (acoustic)
May These Noises Startle You In Your Sleep Tonight
Hell Above
Bulls In The Bronx
Tangled In The Great Escape (ft. Jason Aalon Butler)
Hold On Till May
King For A Day

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