LIVE REVIEW: Beartooth - Nottingham 26th February 2020
On Wednesday 26th February, I was able to attend the sold out Nottingham Beartooth show, with support from Higher Power and The Amity Affliction.
Nottingham wasn’t the only date sold out though - every single UK AND EU show has sold out for Beartooth, which is absolutely mental!
I remember when Beartooth were first announced as support for Of Mice & Men during their UK Tour in 2012 (I think) alongside ISSUES, so I checked them out, which at the time was just after the ‘Sick’ EP release, and I honestly fell in love instantly.
I can still see them playing in front of a room full of people having no idea who the hell these guys were, throwing themselves across the stage and why they were screaming about having problems and setting himself on fire…
And then I remember them playing at The Key Club (Leeds), and now here we are, years later, and they’re selling out academy venues across Europe.
So, when Higher Power, a relatively unknown band from the UK, were offered a chance to support Caleb Shomo’s musical baby masterpiece, then why the hell wouldn’t you?!
I’d listened to Higher Power’s new record, ’27 Miles Underwater’ when it first came out, because there was a hell of a lot of hype around it and lots of people saying how excellent it is, and yes, I really do agree. It’s a fantastic album with a variety of heavy, head banging, rock ’n’ roll jams. But this isn’t about the record, this is about their live performance.
Simply put, they sounded just like the record, which is something I absolutely love about a band, knowing that their recorded sound is so natural and raw to their actual sound - that’s what real music is!
They were very relaxed, and looked wonderfully comfortable to be on such a big stage in front of a sold out crowd, but I did want to see a little more energy from each member.
The songs are definitely head bang worthy, but there’s definitely chance for a bit more movement from the band, which could also encourage the crowd to move more - and trust me, the crowd wanted to move, because as soon as they were asked to, they did, they just needed some encouragement.
I know it can totally be intimidating as an unknown band opening up a gig to a crowd full of people who probably don’t know them, so they did well to showcase the talents that they have, and are definitely deserving of a support slot at this level. I actually heard some guys say how much they enjoyed them when the set ended, so they must have picked up a bunch of new fans from this tour.
Their vocalist, known as J Town, was very vocal and encouraged crowd participation while also communicating, talking and connecting with the crowd in between songs, so he kept the energy in the room as high as it could be for an opening band - and that’s exactly what they’re there to do.
Next on were The Amity Affliction - a very very well known band in the metalcore music scene. I’ve seen these guys live a few times, and each time I see them, they impress me, but for some reason, their 2018 album ‘Misery’ disappointed me, and I haven’t really listened to them in the last couple of years.
We also all know the TAA cliche jokes about oceans and burning skies, dying and any other very stereotyped emo thing you can think of, but it just works for these guys, so I can’t even be mad at how cliche and repetitive their lyrics can be.
As soon as they entered the stage, the energy was through the roof.
An intro starts with an intense atmospheric soundscape, leading into the heavy breakdown from ‘Coffin’, taken from their new album ‘Everyone Love You… Once You Leave Them’, with very deathcore-esque style screams from Joel Birch (Vocals) and Ahren Stringer (Bass & Vocals).
Something I hadn’t heard Ahren do before was scream. I always recognised him for his ridiculously beautiful and crystal clear clean vocals, so when he came out with the screams, it caught me off guard and pleasantly surprised me.
Their second song in didn’t slow anything down, not one bit. ‘All My Friends Are Dead’, also taken from the new album, begins with a blast beat that enflames the audience into an instant mosh pit, and you can feel the body heat starting to rise and spread across the venue. The chorus entraps us in the stunning vocals from Ahren - his ‘oos’ are just so ridiculously clear and have the perfect tone, and I cannot get over it - it was truly impressive how impactful and powerful they are, even when they sound so soft, delicate and ocean-like (sorry for the pun).
Something The Amity Affliction do really well live are their breakdowns. They sound heavy, you can feel them drive through your stomach, and you really feel like it’s taking over your body in that moment. But at the other end of the spectrum, they’re also incredible at the clean vocals, and although the third vocalist (and guitarist), Dan Brown, doesn’t get enough airtime as I think he deserves, the harmonies Dan and Ahren sing together are magnificently satisfying and stunning to hear so clearly, perfectly, and so prominently in the mix.
They played some of their classics, such as ‘Open Letter’, ‘Don’t Lean On Me’, ‘Pittsburg’ (a fan favourite) and ‘Death Hands’, which is by far one of my favourites from their past catalogue.
I was enticed throughout their entire set. I enjoyed every moment. They are a fantastic band, and now I’m going to give their new album a listen, because they may well have turned me around with that incredible performance.
Next up is the one and only, Beartooth, headlining the night. The audience are warmed up, they’re raring to go, the lights dim, and the crowd roars.
Well, what can I say? Once again, Beartooth brought a phenomenal performance to the UK. Mr Caleb Shomo showed the world exactly what he’s capable of.
Rest assured, he wasn’t the only one pulling out all the stops on Wednesday night; the rest of the band proved themselves to be vital cogs in the Beartooth machine, and although it’s not a secret that Caleb writes and records all the Beartooth songs himself, the other band members complete an already solid artist, making Beartooth one of the strongest, most energetic, fun, and crazy metal bands in the music business today.
I’d like to make it clear that usually, I’m one to get stuck in with the pit, to scream out the lyrics and really connect with the band on stage, but admittedly, age and lack of exercise has gotten the better of me, and I’ve found myself at the back of the venue much more frequently - this gig being one of those times. Nevertheless, I still felt like I was smack bang front and centre!
Across the entire 16-song set list, the band exerted so much energy (you’ll be sick of hearing this), it had me head banging and singing the lyrics as loud as I could from the back of the venue. Oshie and Kamron are both excellent backing vocalists, providing Caleb with an extra padding of cleans in a number of their greatest hits. Behind the kit, Connor Denis obliterated the skins with a ludicrous amount of crazy, personality, and of course once again, ENERGY.
They opened their set with an intro that intensified the atmosphere in the venue tremendously, and began with one of my favourite songs from their first album ‘Disgusting’, ‘The Lines’, and what a perfect opener it is. Instantly, a storm of energy rose from the front to the back of the venue, the crowd in the pit were off their feet, Caleb was spinning and swinging, using the full width of the stage, reeling in all the energy from the crowd and throwing back out for them to feed on.
The first half of their set continued with ‘Enemy’ ‘Hated’, ‘Aggressive’ (The title track of their 2nd Album), ‘After all’, ‘Bad Listener’ (a personal favourite of mine), and one hell of a throw back ‘I Have A Problem’, taken from their first EP ‘Sick’, which I have proudly been a follower of since it’s release. A surprising number of fans in the room knew of the song, but the majority were clearly just being introduced to the epic, heartfelt and incredibly honest lyrics of ‘I Have A Problem’, which were inspired by Caleb quitting his previous band, Attack! Attack!, (Fun Fact: Set Me On Fire is also a song about hating Attack! Attack!) and his personal issue with hating himself during his involvement with AA.
You can listen to Shane Told’s (of Silverstein) Lead Singer Syndrome podcast with Caleb where he speaks about his personal issues here:
The way this song was performed streamlines the anger and the hatred Caleb was going through at the time of writing this song, and the pungent power and liveliness deriving from the stage drove the crowd into madness, regardless of wether the fans knew the song or not, showing the true loyalty of the Beartooth family.
After a couple more songs, ‘You Never Know’ and Manipulation’, I was itching to get involved, so I made my way to the front. I do love getting involved with the audience for a review, because I think it’s important to highlight what the audience in the pit are like, as I’ve found some crowds can sometimes ruin the delivery of the bands performance by being carless idiots.
That was not the case here. The crowd were friendly, strong, supportive, just like the Beartooth family I remembered. Audience members had each others backs in the pit, tonnes of people were scratching to get on top of the crowd to surf their way to the front. An incredible audience for an incredible band.
In the middle of the set, Connor had his moment too shine, offering the audience one hell of a drum solo. This reminded me why Connor is one of my favourite drummers, just down to his fluency, energy, skill, perseverance and a cracking stamina. He was dripping head to toe in sweat, and I’m not surprised, because he goes hard on the kit.
We start to work our way towards the end of Beartooth show, and the vivacity and spirit of all the band members is still going incredibly strong.
They wildly perform ‘Fire’, ‘Beaten In Lips’ (Another personal favourite of mine), ‘Sick of Me’, ‘Body Bag’, and to round off their main set list, ‘Disease’, the title track of the latest album and the tour itself.
Before they began this song, Caleb spoke about how this song is about his darkest times, and made us realise that we’ve all been there, a room packed full of people who have all felt the same way at some point in our lives. He made it clear that this song can go either one of two ways for him - he could breakdown on stage, or he would get a hold of all the energy, love and passion from the audience and triple his performance.
While making his intro speech, you could hear the meaning in his words by his voice cracking and wobbling, and he held back the tears as he confessed that just 2 days before, he experienced suicidal thoughts for the first time in 5 years. It broke my heart hearing that the things keeping him alive are music, and the Beartooth family.
This song was performed with intense passion and meaning, fuelled by true feelings, thoughts and experiences, just like the rest of their songs, and in all honesty, made me choke up a little singing the words back to them.
Beartooth left the stage, and waited a few minutes to catch their breath, reel the emotion back in, and returned to the stage for one last song.
“You all know what song we’re gonna play next”, Caleb shouted, and ‘In Between’ began. The woah’s from the audience were LOUD and so crystal clear from the back of the room, Caleb really didn’t need to sing it.
It’s a fan favourite, clearly, as it’s not just a fun and heavy song, but it’s a fantastic sing-a-long track too.
The intensity continued on stage and in the crowd right up until the very end, and as ‘In Between’ drew to a close, so did the show, but Caleb didn’t want it to end there.
As the band were prepared to finish up and leave the stage, Caleb sang the ‘woah’s just a few more times on his own to hear the crowd sing it back to him - clearly something totally bonkers to believe was happening in front of his eyes.
Beartooth are one of my favourite bands, I’ve been desperate to see them again for a long time, and I’m so glad I was able to witness this performance of pure emotion, gratitude, love and outright CRAZY ENERGY.
This was a show I’ll always remember. Every word sang from the bottom of Caleb’s heart. Every string strummed and every drum hit with excitement and total enjoyment.
If you ever get the chance to see Beartooth, snatch up the opportunity, because you absolutely will not regret it.