When one of the most popular modern progressive rock acts announces a UK tour in support of their new album, it’s going to generate excitement. When they announce one of the most provocative and influential post-hardcore bands as main support – a band who almost never visit the UK, and have cancelled shows here on many occasions for health reasons – and only three dates on said tour, it is unsurprising when it sells out within days of tickets going live.
Even the openers have a bit of a buzz about them - Crooks have a fair social media following and there are a fair few nodding heads amongst the audience. Unfortunately The Forum does them few favours; its cavernous space has swallowed better bands, and vocalist Josh Rogers in particular sounds lost in the space. Opening bands generally suffer anyway, as the sound is set up for the headliner, but his register is ill-suited to carry across the room, and for a band so clearly focused on the lyrics and emotion, it’s a big problem. The music is punchy enough – indeed, the bass drum is actually a little overwhelming during certain sections; you can feel it in your face – blending anthemic post-hardcore and pop-punk, but it doesn’t hold a lot of weight, and in general it doesn’t come across as well as it could.
Glassjaw are an odd choice of support. There are certainly more than a few fans present, but with the front few rows packed with eager Coheed-heads – who appear largely perplexed and unmoved by Long Island’s finest – it’s left to those immediately behind to get things moving, which they certainly do. The early part of the set is drawn mostly from the band’s last LP, 2002′s Worship & Tribute, with opening salvo “Tip Your Bartender“/”Mu Empire” a well-chosen opening salvo to blow out the cobwebs. “Ape Dos Mil” is almost obligatory, but all get a respectably-sized push pit going in the middle of the floor.
The sound hasn’t really changed much, and the new rhythm duo of Travis Sykes and Chad Hasty – formerly of Glass Cloud – are very prominent, but that’s not really a problem for Glassjaw, whose latin-influenced grooves thrive on being physically felt. Justin Beck has a lot to do on guitar as a result, but he looks like he’s having an absolute whale of a time; standing in one spot for the duration of the set, but clearly enjoying every second and dancing on the spot.
I’ve heard some dissent on the issue, but for me frontman Daryl Palumbo was, as with most things he puts his talents to, absolutely fantastic. He’s no longer the fiery youth he was, hunched over and screaming into his mic – the flecks of grey peeking out from under his hat are testament to that – but his charisma shines through regardless, whether it’s hanging off the mic for the first few numbers and letting his considerable vocals talents shine, or stalking the stage acting out closer “Siberian Kiss“‘s visceral lyrics.
It’s an absolute stonewall case for wearing a good set of ear plugs to gigs however; without the clarity they provide, the nuance of his vocal control is lost on some, and it’s something so easily rectified by mimicking what the soundman will himself be wearing and mixing to. Why hamstring yourself and risk tinnitus?
The pair of new songs they play – “New White Extremity“, which was dropped in true Glassjaw fashion with zero fanfare in December, and a brand new one called “Shira” – are certainly a good sign for the forthcoming album, even if they don’t offer any more information on when that will arrive.
Of course, Coheed and Cambria are received with the appropriate aplomb, and it seems they’re a little taken aback by the enthusiasm of what I can only assume is a normally reserved British audience. Their new record The Color Before The Sun is somewhat divisive amongst fans, taking a step away from their popular Amory Wars concept series to focus on more personal material, but more than one of The Monolith staff feel it’s among their best work, and the record gets a good run out, with a good third of the set drawn from it, including the incredibly well-crafted crowd-pleaser “You’ve Got Spirit Kid“.
The set does throw up a couple of curveballs – particularly Year Of The Black Rainbow album track “World of Lines” – but otherwise it’s classic Coheed, with the absolutely huge “No World For Tomorrow” particularly pleasing. The main show is topped off with an exemplary rendition of “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3“, which showcases Coheed’s nous in crafting songs so easy to sing back at them.
Coheed are really really difficult to fault. They’ve done themselves a massive favour by crafting a career’s worth of absolutely fantastic songs to draw from, and so the process of performing them makes the exercise more difficult to get wrong than right. Nevertheless, Claudio is so likeable and gracious a frontman that it’s almost impossible to get wrong, and tonight’s show is no exception. Closing the encore on signature song “Welcome Home” is almost too predictable by this point, but it’s still lapped up as well as ever, and as always a great end to the show.
They now head back to the states to resume touring at the end of the month. Let’s hope they’re back before too long.