Sick Puppies

support The Feud
author TL date 13/04/14 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

Back in 2007, during my first year as a reviewer, when I still had little idea what the hell I was doing, I came upon Australian-born radio rock trio Sick Puppies for the first time, and although their sound - coasting in on the slipstream of the previous decade's post-grunge and nu-metal - already sounded late to the party back then, the band showcased a certain songwriting knack that made it hard to write them off as merely a young Creed/Nickelback soundalike. Now seven years later, Sick Puppies have gotten by and even grown, partly via their catchy singles finding their way onto soundtracks for both TV shows, video games and sporting events, and although the combined trend-spotting music press of 2014 considers them about as current as Nokia 3310's and tribal tattoos, the California expatriates have arrived at the point now when they're ready for their second ever show in Denmark

All pictures from Christian Søes can be found at Blurred.dk

Despite the band's obvious big ambitions however, their venue tonight is the modestly sized Beta, and as I walk up to it I notice with a smirk that the band's huge nightliner tour bus is almost as big as the venue's show room. I have little time to dwell on it though, because I'm late due to a pesky Sunday shift I couldn't get rid off - having already missed the support band The Feud. Hence there's only just about time to leave my outer garments with the coat check and then grab a couple of beers and head into the crowd to find our newest photographer Christian and see what Sick Puppies have to offer.

Sick Puppies

I often observe (and lament) that a large majority of the Danish rock-listening crowd sticks stubbornly with music and trends that belong in the late 90's, and there's proof of this in tonight being sold out in advance. Yet the room doesn't feel as packed as on other occasions, perhaps due to a portion of the audience being the youngest I've seen in here. Still there are grown-ups here as well, and looking across the diverse crowd you do indeed feel that the band that's about to come on is a widely appealing, entry-level type of act. And as soon as the headliners enter the room it's confirmed that their ambitions are at least as big as their bus, as a wind machine blows bassist Emma Anzai's dark hair back dramatically while "Die To Save You" echoes out of the speakers with singer/guitarist' Shimon Moore's vocals drenched in stadium-sized reverb. The band has opted to deploy their own sound operator - which is probably a good idea in any other venue than Beta, where the veteran staff usually delivers satisfying conditions on their own - but after a song or two, the vocal echo is reduced to a more acceptable level, and the mix is adjusted more evenly. Things never find quite the full punch that we know is possible here, but despite feeling persistenly like a sound that's intended to rumble across arenas far larger than this, we get to hear each voice and instrument and thus have little to complain about in this department.

And if Sick Puppies have any disappointment with the size of the venue, this is buried deep under routine showmanship. Anzai grooves about confidently in front of her fan, mostly letting her music do the talking, and from where I'm standing drummer Mark Goodwin is hard to spot on the low stage, but Moore at least takes the role as instigator quite seriously, taking every opportunity to step away from his mic and brandish his guitar at us from centre stage while mouthing inaudible words that I'm guessing are along the lines of "You guys can do better than this"! Meanwhile the band is quickly diving into their back catalogue with songs like "Cancer", "All The Same", "Riptide" and "My World" showcasing some of their catchier moments and sparking a bit of life in the Sunday crowd. Moore will clearly not be satisfied before he's convinced everyone in here to sing along and to get their hands up at the desired moments, which on one hand makes sense, because while people here look to know and enjoy the 'Puppies' songs, they also look like somewhat casual concert goers, who aren't too used to leaving their inhibitions at the door and busting out any dancing or headbanging moves.

On the other hand however, as "Maybe" and the pseudo-hard tracks like "Gunfight" and "War" come off the setlist, it's also noticeable that Moore's stage antics are completely automatic and completely out of touch with the size of show this is. You get the feeling that he insists on treating us like the willing stadium audience that he wishes he had, instead of the curious crowd of less than two hundred that we are, some of whom would prefer to hear him sing his chorus melodies convincingly before being required to sing them back at him. And while Moore does alright, if a little loose on his vocals, Anzai's occasional, dramatic harmonies sound like she almost has to hold back in order to avoid outdoing him. Through sheer persistence though, Sick Puppies gradually get people singing along and the vibe in the room seems generally satisfied as the set moves to close with "Deliverance" and of course "You're Going Down". Still, considering the miss-placed attempt to command people to "get down" - a simple clue that the crowd completely misses anyway - and the subsequent decision to skip the encore routine in favour of just asking people to chant the band's name before going off, means that Sick Puppies may very well pad themselves on the back for getting things done in front of a sold out audience, but they still seem in dire need of an injection of situational awareness, at least to anyone whose listening ears have actually been tuned in to the music scene for the past ten to fifteen years.

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