The Blackout

support Silverstein + Hollywood Undead + The Urgency
author NB date 29/05/09 venue Forum, London, UK

Well I'll start by saying "thanks" to Victory Records for dragging us to London for a 5pm interview with Silverstein only to renege on their promise to make contact with us at the venue. We were left waiting outside for two hours before we finally gave up on the meeting. Cheers! Whilst we loitered in wait for the interview not to materialise we witnessed the build up of a predictably ridiculous-looking queue. Seeing these black-and-pink clad youngsters melting in the sun it seemed that The Blackout are the only band anyone is here to see. Either that or Silverstein's fans simply haven't grown out of their emo phase in the same way that the band appears to have done.

The Urgency

The Urgency were already on stage by the time AP and I got inside. I have to reiterate PP's comments in that, considering we got in almost immediately after doors through the guest-list entrance, I have no idea how the organisers expect the band to have anything more than about 25% of the crowd watching their set when they start this early. It's a shame because the band put on a pretty solid performance and might have attracted some new fans from the thousands-long queue stuck outside. Vocalist Tyler especially made a good effort to get this small audience going and the atmosphere during their set was already getting fairly lively. This was probably because most of their songs were mellow, mid paced and easy to get into; compared to the headliners at any rate. In fact you might wonder why they were on this tour… until you see the next band on the bill.

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Hollywood Undead


I am painfully aware that I am about to have to eat my words in a big way when it comes to the section about The Blackout's show, but I will write here what I was thinking when the monstrosity of a band that is Hollywood Undead was presented for our viewing displeasure and it's what I generally think: bands with multiple vocalists just don't work that well live…

They don't work on record either if this band's recent album is anything to go by. In case you missed it (lucky you) you can check out the review here. If the lyrics were banal on record then it only gets worse in a live setting. For the first few seconds I admit to thinking that the layered, gang-vocal chants sounded pretty cool, but it was all downhill from there. The band appeared equipped with their Slipknot/power-rangers masks and their Hollywood gangsta' swagger to start chanting arrogant, race-confused lyrics such as “Everywhere I go, Bitches always know, That Charlie Scene has got a weenie that he loves to show… Bitch” to an audience of white, middle-class, English kids. Anyone over the age of about fifteen just facepalm'd at this point. Perhaps they had stopped to consider the stupidity of a band that tries to combine the seemingly conflicting ideologies of LA gangland and “the scene”. This apparently didn't trouble the youngsters who lapped it up and made some sort of gangsta' mosh-pit.

So, besides the content of the music, was it a good show? When you divide vocal duties amongst 6 people you might expect that it brings loads of variety to a set and means that there is always something to watch on stage. What actually happens is that it takes any charisma and personality that is normally concentrated in the front-man of the band and dilutes it to nothing (think of Sonic Syndicate's live show). The audience is left not knowing who to look at. Should they decide to try and appreciate the musicianship instead? Well with any other band that might be okay, but with Hollywood Undead there isn't any of that, so the audience is stuck trying to make sense of the cacophony of absolute toss that constitutes the lyrics. Remember kids: “put on some scene gear”, “get drunk before mum wakes up” and then “break-up with your girlfriend so you can bang sluts”. Cool!

2

Silverstein

The Canadian post-hardcore act, Silverstein, hardly need any introduction, especially to regular RockFreaks readers (this will be the seventh Silverstein live review by this zine). Since their debut in 2003 they've seen remarkable success. I'm actually quite surprised to see that they weren't headlining this tour. As I mentioned already: perhaps their popularity is fading amongst the youngsters of today's scene. Their disappointingly short set began with “Vices” and the heavier “I am the Arsonist”, my personal favourites from the band's latest album “A Shipwreck in the Sand”. Immediately there was a good response from the crowd despite the fact that the sound was a little off. Shane Told's usual impressive vocal performance was marred by technical troubles: essentially every time he switched from his powerful clean style to the, usually equally-strong, scream there was a distinct drop in volume as his harsh vocals were barely picked up on the mic. The band's usual strong stage presence made sure that this wasn't the end of the world as they went on to play “Smashed into Pieces” and other songs from that era (also included was their cover of OneRepublic's irritating “Apologize” recorded for “Punk Goes Pop Volume 2”). There wasn't a single track from “Arrivals and Departures”. No “Sound of the Sun”, my personal favourite. Are they ashamed of that album? I am almost tempted to deduct points for the interview screw-up and the fact that Shane was wearing a Hollywood Undead shirt. However, despite being rather short, it was a predictably good set from Silverstein.

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The Blackout

As I was saying: multiple vocalists are no good live. Why did The Blackout have to come along and prove me wrong? They must be the exception to the rule. Their genre is also post-hardcore, they hail from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales and they entered to a riotous reception to unleash one of the best performances I've seen this year. The vocal duo of Sean Smith and Gavin Butler was a massive surprise, each of them taking focus at exactly the right times in each song and providing audience interaction with an unheard-of proliferation of mic swinging into the bargain. Sean also supplied an appropriate level of banter between songs, riffing off Gavin's more restrained interjections. This was blended with all the usual arrogance of an upstart band (their first full-length “We are the Dynamite!” was released in 2007) but there's something inherently meek about the Welsh accent which makes it all tolerable.

I'm by no means a diehard fan of the band's music and had really barely listened to The Blackout before the gig but I'd say that a good majority of the songs in their set that were original enough to be remembered. Whilst they aren't exactly pushing boundaries with their song writing, what they do turn out is an awesome example of the genre. With the number of catchy tunes they aired tonight you'd think that these were selected hits from a vast discography when in actual fact all this comes from just three releases. Sound wise the show was nigh on perfection, especially refreshing because of the bass guitar being so loud in the mix. Each song had a comforting punch to it which, along with and the rock star attitude of Sean and Gavin, gave at least the impression that these guys are veterans of the live setting and made for a show which at long last made up for the two hours of frustration beforehand.

9

Photos courtesy of Benji Walker.

You can also see some videos from the gig here (you might need to search).

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