Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Bring Me The HorizonPrevious Next
support While She Sleeps + Basement
author AP date 20/11/16 venue Falconer Salen, Frederiksberg, DEN
Quite strange that tonight’s concert had been flagged as nearly sold-out for weeks, as upon entering the 3,000-capacity venue, not only are the balconies closed off — there also seems to be heaps of space on the main floor, and even the most optimistic estimate would put the attendance at perhaps two thirds of the available tickets. Could this British sensation have reached its maximum potential in Denmark? Certainly the turnout is a far cry from selling out e.g. the Wembley Arena in Bring Me the Horizon’s native Britain, even if the frequency of the group’s visits to the Danish capital city in recent years may play some part. For me, this is the ninth time seeing the Sheffield-born act since 2008, and as such my expectations for the show are firmly grounded in perspective… That is to say, rather meagre.
Probably in stark opposition to the brunt of the attendees, it is actually the opening act on this all-English bill that has me most excited, on the basis of not just their magical show at Chicago, IL’s Riot Fest & Carnival two months ago, but also a solid headlining gig in Copenhagen back in February. It is encouraging to note that a significant portion of the mass bundled up against the stage, counting the seconds until its idols claim the stage, seems to know and welcome Basement with cheers and applause; less so to realise (again) just how ill-suited the Falconer conference room is for noisier styles of music. The opening track, “Whole”, is all but lost to a horrific, distorted echo making it difficult to discern much else than the highest reaches of Andrew Fisher’s vocals.
In the first half, the mix is so muddled up that only the most tempered passages make an impact (parts of “Aquasun” and “For You the Moon” off the band’s most recent album, “Promise Everything”), which is a shame because the band goes to length at staging an engaging, vivid performance. Guitarists Ronan Crix & Alex Henery, and bassist Duncan Stewart make a point out of doing twirls, swinging and brandishing their instruments, and surging toward the edge of the stage as the noise gains. The lighting is not quite as moody or elusive as was the case at the aforementioned Riot Fest performance, so that de-personified mysteriousness is not there tonight. But you can actually make out the individual members now, and how passionately they exert themselves. This, coupled with a notable improvement in the mix quality that has everything from “Earl Grey” onward and until the finale, “Covet”, sounding at the very least decent, proves redemptive enough to stop me despairing. Still, these are far from ideal circumstances in which to experience a band so reliant on subtleties.
If the venue had trouble accommodating the understated style of Basement’s music, then it does even less favours for the confrontational, politically charged metalcore of While She Sleeps. Slices of it sounds akin to funnelling gale force winds through a megaphone, with only Lawrence Taylor’s distraught screams and those distinctive high-end melodies found in songs like “This is the Six” and “Our Courage, Our Cancer” (both off 2012’s “This is the Six”) occasionally penetrating the roar. This is a shame, because the likewise Sheffield-based quintet performs with an intensity and ferocity that feel foreign even in the metalcore genre. From the first chugs of “Brainwashed”, Taylor and the axemen, guitarists Sean Long & Mat Welsh and bassist Aaran McKenzie, command the audience to ”open this f****ng place up”, ”jump the f**k up!” and ”make this s**t spin!” with an almost terrifying sense of jurisdiction.
It adds to While She Sleeps’ imposing aura that the musicians are willing to lead by example, putting action behind words and throwing themselves into a wild frenzy amidst flickering strobe lights. The band’s showmanship really is a spectacle to behold, which makes the distress of the calamitous mix with which they must make do ever more tragic. But somehow, despite being unable to convey all that much musically tonight, the white hot vigour of their demeanour leaves an impact on not just the undersigned, but by the looks of it, most of the two thousand-or-so patrons in attendance. Frame this performance with generous acoustics, and you would have one of the most arresting live acts in the metalcore industry right now — suddenly, Lawrence’s promise to return next year once their new album is out, sounds very savoury indeed.
One thing you must concede, regardless of your opinion on the merits of this band’s music, is that the production tonight is astonishing. Virtually every bit of vertical surface on the two-tiered stage setup is part of an enormous display system featuring rapidly shifting abstract imagery mixed with live footage of the six musicians. It looks kind of unreal — as though Bring Me the Horizon were plastered onto green screens, filmed, and then dropped into a music video which plays instead of an actual concert. And with the amount of backing track the band now uses to ensure that all of the electronics, orchestral samples, layered vocals and other gimmicks can be included in the show, it may as well be. Add well-synced lighting and the show looks spectacular, but as you might imagine, getting all of those puzzle pieces to fit requires a lot of choreography — something that becomes awkwardly obvious when the audience erupts into a semi-spontaneous birthday song for vocalist Oli Sykes (30 years old this night) after “The House of Wolves”. With the introductory samples and visuals of “Avalanche” already underway, Sykes has no time but for a quick, obligatory ”Thank you.”, which may as well have been followed by, ”… and now shut up, and stop interrupting the show.”
Intimacy then, is a thing only those of us who had the opportunity to watch the band in its early days can reminisce about. The focus has long since shifted toward the kind of circus that the world’s biggest popstars like to use to distract people from the triviality of their music. Bring Me the Horizon does not quite fall into that bracket yet, but what has happened since the release of the landmark “Suicide Season” in 2008, is that the edge and unpredictability of the ‘Horizon’s music and showmanship alike has gradually withered with each successive album. The Sheffield titans view themselves as such superstars now that they show no regard for forming a connection with the audience, breezing through it as robotically and meticulously as the whole thing is sequenced. It’s catchy and polished, but utterly lacking in soul. And no toothless rendition of the ferocious “Chelsea Smile” — the only pre-“Sempiternal” era piece allowed onto the setlist, presumably to please the few fans that might even remember that record — is able to change that.
The concert has its moments. “Sleepwalking” and “Antivist” do a good job at showing off Bring Me’s best sides: the emotional grandeur, the penchant for stitching together huge pop-metal anthems, the occasional flash of vitriol. But for the vast majority of the 15-song setlist, the proceedings fall neatly into categories such as ‘safe’, ‘predictable’ and ‘bland’. And look, music need not be deep or complex to appeal to me — this band has proven my prejudice wrong on countless occasions. But when the music is served with such a lack of personality and general indifference toward the audience as is the case tonight, it does beckon the question: what exactly is the point?
- 01. Happy Song
- 02. Go to Hell, for Heaven’s Sake
- 03. The House of Wolves
- 04. Avalanche
- 05. Shadow Moses
- 06. Chelsea Smile
- 07. Follow You
- 08. Sleepwalking
- 09. Doomed
- 10. Can You Feel My Heart
- 11. Antivist
- 12. Throne
— Encore —
- 13. True Friends
- 14. Oh No
- 15. Drown