On a relatively mild Monday night in November I shot over to Birmingham to catch an American rock band, their futuristic buddies and a British trio from Croydon. Departing from the usual trawl through how the night went from turning up to leaving I thought I’d break it up a little.
Opening to a still filling room, Press To Meco smashed through seven songs from their two albums to date on a stage they aren’t necessarily used to. Having seen the band doing a normal and acoustic set at 2000trees this Summer I was excited to see them play to another big crowd and, despite some sound issues at the start of the set, they lived up to the stage easily.
When you have three band members in Luke Caley, Adam Roffey and Lewis Williams you have a trio that are incapable of putting on a bad show. Their vocals combine so easy they make the intricacies contained within tracks like ‘Itchy Fingers’ seems like your basic songwriting. Normally, when a drummer sings you don’t get anything more than a simple beat but Lewis Williams plays like he has nothing else to focus on.
The aforementioned sound issues meant that some of the vocals weren’t as clear as they could have been which did take away from the harmonies a little, but that didn’t stop the crowd appreciating them. From the middle of the set this was all sorted and closing on ‘Here’s To The Fatigue’ was an excellent choice. It’s just a shame as seven songs is just not enough from these guys.
Press To Meco just keep pulling it out of the bag. Sound issues may have hampered the first half of their set, but they make performing what is a difficult concept look as easy as lobbing on some backing tracks and funky outfits – 8/10.
My only experience of Starset before this gig was a quick listen on a music streaming app. My hopes were set low from the off, though they seemed like a band that would fit in perfectly with a Shinedown crowd. By the end of the first song that was proved correct.
The crowd loved the band and the end of each song was met with applause and the odd wolf whistle but for me musically the band feels like a beige Bring Me The Horizon. They’re trying to create a big, atmospheric sound, as you would probably expect from the name, but it just lacks any sort of bite that sets them apart. Each song wasn’t too far departed from the last with everything coming across well practiced, well rehearsed and well…a bit boring.
The stage show is the one redeeming factor here but even that comes across as a little desperate. The spacesuits looking like laserquest attire that wasn’t returned with a halo of lights in front of each musicians face. What really pushed that home was the frontman, no halo for him though he was wearing a harness over his shirt and tie, asking the crowd if they wanted “something heavy”. This was met with cheers and a riff a little dirtier than the borderline pop that preceded it. Sadly this was the only heavy element and his heavily distorted and echoey vocals continued, maybe even a little higher pitched.
This band will get bigger and they fit the Shinedown demographic really well, sadly it just wasn’t for me. Their engaging use of videos on screens behind the band is a nice touch, but the desperate grasp for a gimmick does them no favours in my book. The crowd though was suitably warmed up and that’s what the band were there for – 5/10.
Following a couple of intro tracks, headliners Shinedown came on to rapturous applause from a well warmed up crowd and proceeded to jump straight into ‘Devil’. Immediately you could feel that the band were at home in front of an adoring crowd.
One of my main gripes with Shinedown when I’ve seen them previously has been the preachy nonsense that frontman Brent Smith plagues the crowd with. Knocking out 16 songs in a little over an hour and a half shows that this has been cut down significantly and that was a major plus for me. I’m all for some crowd interaction and Smith still found time to make everyone in the crowd feel like they were one, but to a degree that made the music the main attraction.
As with most sets at the Academy, the sound can be an issue, no matter how hard the engineers work, and that was evident during Bully. One of the band’s most unique opening bars didn’t register with the crowd as it was buried underneath a sample. Luckily, when all realised what was coming the reception was large.
Similar to Starset, Shinedown for me just don’t have that little spark that makes them a great band. Their live shows are solid and well rehearsed and their bigger songs draw a great atmosphere, but the use of samples detracts and musically they’re too safe.
As a band Shinedown are on an upward trajectory and you would have to be delusional to not accept that. I’m not sure how much further they will realistically rise, are arenas slightly out of their reach at the moment? Maybe with strong support they could make that step up and do a Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff, London run. For now though, it’s good to see another rock band that are selling out large venues across the UK, spitting in the face of ‘legends’ claiming otherwise – 7/10.
O2 Academy Birmingham
The O2 Academy in Birmingham is a bit of a weird one. The Carling Academy felt like a true music venue, it was a bit grimey, the floor certainly wasn’t cleaned and the music was the main attraction. This gig came one day short of a decade after the old Academy closed and it still feels too….corporate. The bars are ludicrously overpriced for the massively poor product they serve. Somehow, you get a better drink at a lower price at a festival. Music is not the main focus here, money is and as usual that money is not making it’s way to the bands playing the venue.
The venue didn’t do enough wrong to detract from the experience, but with places like Mama Roux’s doing so well on a smaller scale it’s a shame that more isn’t being done here to ensure the bands and their fans are the main focus 3/10.