SOiL with American Head Charge, (hed) p.e., Wolfbourne. 21 October 2014
Review by Rowena Lamb
Photography by Inty Malcolm
Last week saw a North American invasion with four bands heading over to our shores to show us how it’s done their side of the water. Three of the bands on their own would have guaranteed a very decent turn out, especially with the return of (hed) p.e. to the UK. Having them all on the one bill was going to result in nothing but a packed, sold out show. Therefore it wasn’t surprising that both of the UK shows so far on the tour (Southampton being the night before) had sold out.
Heading into the venue for the first band WOLFBORNE I was a little surprised to see a small crowd; expecting there to be a bigger gathering at the front already ‘holding their pitch’. Having said that the audience level grew steadily throughout WOLFBORNE’s set, which was good to see, especially for the band who I was genuinely impressed with.
They provided a smooth mix of good singing vocals and heavier shoutier styles, as well as differing speeds and styles musically. Even managing to throw in a genuinely slow number towards the end, they held their own and all credit to them.
‘Living The Life’ was an early example of the mixed vocal styles, with rapid rhythmic lyrics including the heavier growling style vocals with more spoken styles. In contrast ‘Jellyfish’ provided that heavy growl through the bass and guitar, with the vocals remaining more sung throughout. Though they only had a short set they managed to show a lot of what they are capable of; enough for me to add them to my ‘will see again’ list.
Now the next band on the list had already been causing a pulse of excitement before they began, as the audience was clearly keep to relive the feelings (HED)P.E had previously brought out in them. Even this early on in the night the venue was packed all the way to the front. Not that you needed to see that you could just listen to the chanting at the front as the lights signalled the start of their set. After along drum style introduction, they launch into an aggressive number, which had the vocals at full force; fast and incessant, almost as if Jahred Gomes didn’t need to breath to keep going.
They follow this up with about 30 seconds of ‘Killing Time’ off their second album ‘Broke’ before throwing the spotlight onto the drums where you got to see Trauma just flying across the drum kit throughout – superb.
The next few songs were evidence of their diversity and clearly showing for me their ability to mix styles together. Whether this be straight funk, elements of punk to bring a bounce to the rhythm or the rap-style vocals and damn fine groove of ‘Bartender’ they have knack of bringing opposing sounds together.
This was shown again when they played a song from their current album ‘Evolution’. I wasn’t able to catch the name of the song, but if they were intending to return more to their earlier roots, then I think they managed that just fine. It was heavier and more full on, mixing reggae style vocals which switched to harsher, more screaming tones throughout. This song again helped to demonstrate the broad range covered and how they attracted such a huge following.
The venue was absolutely packed and spilling out of the sides towards the bar for this set. I would say standing room only, but there was barely any of that in places. Singing and shouting back lyrics and cheers for songs throughout, this was one very happy crowd. They were even treated to a short cover of ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials which they’d learnt especially for the London audience. Even playing the melodian for us, which is not one I’ve sent before and I certainly appreciated the effort.
There was no gentle introduction for the next band as AMERICAN HEAD CHARGE did exactly that; charging straight into their first song making it loud and well…charged with energy right from the start.
Vocalist Cameron Heacock ramped up the energy levels by heading towards the crowd and the barrier before being pulled into a mini crowd surf, and all before the first song had ended.
‘Dirty’ followed this up and though continuing in a similar vein was not as immediately harsh as its predecessor. As this changed completely at the chorus, it managed to give me a new appreciation of the style of the verse when it was repeated, somehow altering the tone.
‘Writhe’ was in contrast not only with the previous songs but also within itself. The beginning was very much muted not only in melody and rhythm but also in stage presence; it was restrained, spoken and more melodic. More personal perhaps, which is added to about halfway through when everything explodes at your ears.
Gone are the soft vocals and the gentle melody, to be replaced with gritty shouting and volume. This to me adds to that previous personal style from the beginning; only adding a more intense emotion to the song.
That’s one of the interesting aspect of this band and their set; the way they bring in contrasting elements and mix them together, not only throughout their set but also in their songs. From balls to the wall aggression, to low slung sounding guitars, to gentle melodic vocals and back to in your face volume and speed. It’s all there and it was all appreciated by the crowd.
It’s always interesting to watch an audience’s reaction to a band and to the different songs they play. What was clear not only from the shouts and cheers but also in their faces. How they appeared to be really feeling some of the songs, which is what it’s all about.
The finale for the evening rested on the shoulders of SOIL, which from the previous times I’ve seen them is always a safe way to end a show. Like the bands before them on the line up, they bring with them a highly charged atmosphere; one of absolute anticipation of what they will deliver. Again you could really see and feel the focus and energy from the crowd, as if as a whole they were waiting to be told what to do or how to react depending on what song was to be played next. As it they were putting themselves completely into the band’s hands and letting go. Again, that’s what live shows should be about; surrendering.
The only downside I could find was the lighting for some of the set, with reds and greens taking up much of the stage. I can understand wanting to add atmosphere through lighting, but at times less is more when it comes to being better able to see what is going on. Sometimes we want the sweat and the grit, not pretty lines.
Without a doubt with every one of their live shows in the UK there has been a clear connection between the band and their audience; a mutual affection for the other. You just have to look at the crowd and listen to songs like ‘Shine On’ and ‘Need To Feel’ to see that.
Coming onto the stage to the strains of ‘We Will Rock You’ and almost immediately the crowd were cheering and jumping about. During their first song it felt like you should be at least two thirds of the way through from the atmosphere – they certainly showing you how it should be done.
Just take ‘The Hate Song’ as an example which is surely guaranteed to get you jumping about. Though then came ‘Breaking Me Down’ which to me was the epitome of a reaction from a crowd who just went ape shit. There’s no other way to describe it
Following later with the classic ‘Halo’ the energy levels maintained at that high level, though naturally increasing wherever Ryan was as he took his mic into the audience for this song. You can generally tell where he is by the way the crowd moves about though as I mentioned, this was one highly charged crowd. Which resulted in Ryan declaring as he left the crowd via the barrier that this was the first in 18 years that he’d ever had to flee a mosh pit. Top work London!