Silverstein

support We Are The Ocean
author AP date 01/04/12 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

That only a small handful of fans have made their way to Lille Vega tonight, a third of them Swedish, is a testament to the decaying popularity of original emo/screamo here in Denmark. If a band as renowned as Silverstein can't pull more than 150 people to an Easter break show, then it must be because of a paradigm shift. Most kids simply aren't interested in bands with an "older" sound anymore when similar bands come in hordes and are instantly accessible via social media. Nonetheless, given my affection for the band, this was not a performance that I was going to miss under any circumstances.

We Are The Ocean

Having staged a very good performance in Copenhagen a year and a half ago, when they played at the much smaller Beta in support of Hawthorne Heights, it was with excitement I welcomed news that British screamo-turned-alternative rock quintet We Are the Ocean would be supporting Silverstein on this tour. Throughout its existence, the band has drawn comparisons to the late Alexisonfire and pre-"Fools and Worthless Liars" era Deaf Havana for their juxtaposition of the hardcore punk style vocals of Dan Brown with the chilling clean vocals of rhythm guitarist Liam Cromby. Some critics have even pointed out that the band would sound better if, like Deaf Havana, they rid themselves of Brown and fully embraced their newfound alternative rock sensibilities.

But unlike the Deaf Havana of old, where there was next to no chemistry between the two vocalists, the presence of Brown here is as vital to the inner workings of We Are the Ocean's music as the singing of Cromby, especially in the wake of the band's latest album "Go Now and Live", on which Brown introduced a gruff singing technique not unlike Hot Water Music and Make Do and Mend. Indeed, even though Cromby's frequent highs and falsetto notes ensure plenty of spine-tingling moments and baffled silence on the crowd's part, some of the most impressive parts in the band's set come when both, and sometimes even lead guitarist Alfie Scully as well, are singing in harmony, such as on the likes of "What It Feels Like", "Run Away" and "The Waiting Room".

Of course, despite this being their absolute strength, We Are the Ocean are not intriguing because of vocal performances alone; they're also an extremely energetic live act. And in this context further commend must be offered to Brown, whose boundless energy ensures that no one is left cold. He is not one to stand idly and accept a still-standing crowd; he makes it his duty to stimulate the evening's first and only circle pit, and once that fails to repeat itself, he ushers himself into the crowd and converts it into a sizable moshpit during "Overtime is a Crime". What also benefits the band's performance in this regard is that Brown happily resigns from the spotlight when it becomes Cromby's turn to impress, creating the impression that the band is very aware of the dynamic characteristics of a good performance. Even when a pack of tiny teenage girls awkwardly rushes the stage, Brown is quick to arrange them behind, telling them to be "back-up singers" Cromby so as to not steal any attention from the show. Very nice indeed!

8

Silverstein

For a long time after the release of the seminal "Discovering the Waterfront" in 2005, Silverstein ranked among my favorite bands. So even though my interest in them has dwindled over the years, I always look forward to seeing them live again with considerable enthusiasm. The band's simplistic, yet ridiculously catchy brand of emo/screamo is fine gig fodder for its immediacy and countless sing-along opportunities, and when combined with their energy on stage, one rarely goes home from their shows with a taste of disappointment. Tonight is certainly no exception, and despite the lowest turnout out of all the band's visits to Denmark yet, I am even pressed to say that the band has never put on a better performance that I have been fortunate enough to experience.

There are several reasons for this. One is that Shane Told is both a fantastic singer and a formidable frontman. His willingness to engage even the smallest of crowds is something many a hardened rockstar should take note of, and in spite of his struggling to find the right notes in the first song, "Your Sword Vs. My Dagger", he has no trouble delivering near-perfect renditions of the band's recorded material. His strained delivery of "Sacrifice" and "The Ides of March" early in the set is particularly impressive, and as we are taken further into the setlist, there are moments in the likes of "When Broken Is Easily Fixed" and "Vices" that send shivers streaming down our backs. Another is that over a decade of touring has shaped Silverstein into extremely proficient entertainers. Their performance is a meticulously crafted rock show in which each member plays an equally important role, so that when Told is not in the spotlight, delivering his anxious lyrics, guitarists Josh Bradford and Neil Boshart, and bassist Billy Hamilton are rocking out with a passion that is miles beyond the cautious performances that I have seen by them in the past. Small wonder that the audience responds with such frenzy despite its small numbers.

Though I have not yet had the chance to check out Silverstein's latest effort, "Short Songs", a tribute album to the hardcore and punk bands that influenced them, featuring original and cover songs that clock in at 90 seconds or less, one of the absolute highlights of tonight's set is the 7 minutes or so spent playing "S.O.S.", "Brookfield" and "La Marseillaise", as well as two covers in the form of NOFX's "It's My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite" and Orchid's "Destination: Blood!". As you might expect, these are the most aggressive and fast-paced songs of the night, and a far cry from the archetypical Silverstein song, but the fans, as young as most of them seem to be, meet them with enthusiasm, moshing as hard as to any other song played tonight. The set ends with fan favorites "Smile in Your Sleep" and "Call It Karma", followed by an obligatory encore comprising a brilliant semi-acoustic rendition of "Replace You", emo anthem "My Heroine", and the classic "Bleeds No More", and afterward I find myself thinking that even though Silverstein's music is lyrically a little too melodramatic, and sounds somewhat dated in the context of the scene today, their performance tonight is a delightfully nostalgic affair that puts their modern equivalents into perspective.

8

Setlist:

  • Your Sword Vs. My Dagger
  • Sacrifice
  • The Artist
  • Smashed Into Pieces
  • The Ides of March
  • I am the Arsonist
  • Vices
  • When Broken Is Easily Fixed
  • S.O.S.
  • Brookfield
  • La Marseillaise
  • It's My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite (NOFX cover)
  • Destination: Blood! (Orchid cover)
  • Smile in Your Sleep
  • Call It Karma

--Encore--

  • Replace You
  • My Heroine
  • Bleeds No More

Photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

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