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Underoath

support mewithoutYou
author AP date 16/05/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Ask anyone who dabbled in the mid-‘00s burgeoning of post-hardcore, and they will probably nominate Underoath’s “They’re Only Chasing Safety” and “Define the Great Line” as milestone efforts that shaped and pushed the genre forward. It thus comes as no surprise that the attendance at Pumpehuset tonight is roughly divided into former scene kids who have since moved on to other realms, and the younger segment wanting to experience the origins of the genre they use as the soundtrack to their lives right now. No wonder that the place is buzzing with a sense of community, with old friends (and lovers?) re-united and new faces anxious to find out why the Tampa, FL-based act is held in such reverence.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

mewithoutYou

On paper, mewithoutYou strikes me as an odd choice of support for a band renowned for its explosiveness. But upon hearing the creations of this Philadelphia, PA-born quartet (not including the touring bassist) for the first time tonight, it is obvious that they share certain similarities with the headliner, most prominently in terms of their approach to composition. The band’s songs are intricately layered and expose a kind of latent intensity, lurking just beneath the surface of tracks such as “Nice and Blue (Pt. Two)” and “The Cure for Pain”, often resulting in a noisy, scalding and emotive crescendo familiar to any fan of Brand New or Thrice. Both songs emerge as standout moments — and not just because they happen to be particularly well-written, but also because the five musicians seem so involved in and absorbed by them. There is a sense of urgency about their performance, best embodied by vocalist Aaron Weiss’s repertoire of misfit dance moves as he rapid-fires Jordan Dreyer-esque spoken word at us, but also resonating from the tireless exertion of his band mates.

It is a shame then, that Weiss’ microphone suffers multiple malfunctions throughout the 10-song set, screeching and losing its volume when it is most needed, and that overall, those of us not familiar with his lyricism have a difficult time deciphering the nature of his lyrics due to a substandard vocal mix. Still, my affinity for this kind of artfully elusive indie/alternative rock triumphs such issues at the end, even if my awakening to mewithoutYou’s music comes some 15 years late. They have my attention now, however, and based on how deeply struck I am by the material off 2002’s “(A —> B) Life” and 2006’s “Brother, Sister”, not to mention the nerve with which those songs are performed, this is a band that I will be keeping an eye on thus forth.

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Underoath

Over the course of their 20-year career, Underoath have built up a reputation as a live band one should be sorry to miss. And true to tradition, their segue from backstage to playing “Young and Aspiring” is best characterised as a detonation, with the entire sextet instantly plunging into a whirlwind of madness. The most devout fans bunched up front need no sales pitches, either; the moshpit opens without hesitation and from therein, a forest of outstretched arms tries to cop a feel of vocalist Spencer Chamberlain, who gladly responds with a series of handshakes and high-fives as he screams ”None of this will ever change your mind!” Compared to the other Underoath gigs that I have witnessed, this first set is raw and inelegant, with the visual expression left up to the musicians rather than the stage production. But it feels right, this return to basics, considering that the Floridians are recalling a time when the band was still freshly baked, and the audience seems to agree; the volume with which it sings back ”Drowning in my sleep, I’m drowning in my sleep” in the fan-favourite, “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door”, is impressive.

Still, the most compelling moments for me arrive in the form of less obvious picks like “Down, Set, Go” (played for the first time on Danish soil) and “I Don’t Feel Very Receptive Today”, primarily because they shun the cheap tricks and place a heavier emphasis on dynamics and atmosphere. The contrast between a quietus and a soaring crescendo in the former produces an especially fond memory but overall, hearing “They’re Only Chasing Safety” played live front-to-back only strengthens my impression that it always felt like a transitional record, introducing but not fully realising Underoath’s new ideas. Not so with its successor, “Define the Great Line”, which erupts in the shape of “In Regards to Myself” after a brief intermezzo. The performance of this album is supplemented by abstract projections reducing the entire band into silhouettes and giving the show a cooler, darker vibe to go with the heavier influence of jagged post-rock that pervades songs like the outstanding pairing of “There Could Ne Nothing After This” and “You’re Ever So Inviting”.

No doubt energised by the awesome reaction met by the first set, the group’s showmanship is also wilder now, with both guitarists — Timothy McTague & James Smith — and bassist Grant Brandell punching through the air and thrusting their instruments in violent arcs, wearing inflamed face expressions. Meanwhile, as “Returning Empty Handed” reaches its climax, Chamberlain is seen crouching at the top of an amp stack, screaming ”Black, flash white, I am awake!” with unprecedented ferocity, and when the deified scene classic, “Writing on the Walls”, arrives, he needs do nothing else but turn his back to us, raise his mic and listen to the cannonade of 500 souls singing and screaming every lyric. But breathtaking though they are, these individual moments are not what makes the performance of “Define the Great Line” so spellbinding — it is rather the fact that the record is so immersive and feels like a complete and absorbing experience. And the amount of stage dives happening during the closer, “Everyone Looks So Good from Here”, suggests that I am far from alone in harbouring this sentiment.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Young and Aspiring
  • 02. A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White
  • 03. The Impact of Reason
  • 04. Reinventing Your Exit
  • 05. It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door
  • 06. Down, Set, Go
  • 07. I Don’t Feel Very Receptive Today
  • 08. I’m Content with Losing
  • 09. Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape
  • 10. In Regards to Myself
  • 11. A Moment Suspended in Time
  • 12. There Could Be Nothing After This
  • 13. You’re Ever So Inviting
  • 14. Returning Empty Handed
  • 15. Casting Such a Thin Shadow
  • 16. Moving for the Sake of Motion
  • 17. Writing on the Walls
  • 18. Everyone Looks So Good from Here
  • 19. To Whom It May Concern

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