Fresh off the back of a summer of huge festival crowds, and one of the most incredible live shows this Gigslut has ever seen for the Teenage Cancer Trust’s series at the Royal Albert Hall (a live DVD seriously worth looking out for), Sheffield lads Bring Me The Horizon’s latest arena tour arrived at The O2 in London this week, and from the outset it was clear that the boys were throwing everything at it.
Musically, BMTH have been an arena band for at least two records, but kicking the show off with ‘Happy Song’, dry ice cannons, streamers and a huge visual display-cum-stage, the band start the night with the kind of explosive stage-craft you would expect from Guns ‘n’ Roses. It’s full on. Seriously full on. The screen is blasting out a combo of live visuals and moody backdrops, the drums are battering in time with an intense lighting array and the sound of the crowd rings around the arena. However, for all of the bombast, there is precision in the onslaught and the show feels like something new.
Capitalising on the brimming energy, we roll straight into ‘The House Of Wolves’ and ‘Avalanche’, Oli Sykes whipping the crowd up throughout, baying for circle pits and revelling in the rapture of the sing-alongs. The rhetoric is hardly revolutionary, with cries for the crowd to “push it back”, but you wouldn’t doubt the sincerity or intention. This is a band that has been raised on the arena rock shows of bands like Slipknot, and that education is telling – during ‘Alligator Blood’, the band have co-opted Corey Taylor and co’s “sit down” moment from ‘Spit It Out’. Anyone who has seen, or been part of this at a Slipknot show knows the intensity of the moment, the lengths the band go to to make it work, and the reaction of the crowd (if you haven’t seen it and want a reference point just see the video below). Truth be told, Bring Me The Horizon don’t quite pull the moment off – not for want of enthusiasm on part of the band or the crowd, but more from a slight lack of polish in execution.
‘Follow You’ brings the tempo and the energy down a step, and the musical respite is a positive change. After a heartfelt thank you to the crowd, ‘Sleepwalking’ follows and we’re clearly into the softer section of the set. However, despite the tempering of the musical assault, the visual one continues throughout, and amazing as the stage setting is, it’s becoming a bit too much. What’s more, there is a lack of continuity in the visual displays which deters rather than reinforcing; historic war footage gives way to kaleidoscopic patterns that would feel more at home in Marvel’s Dr. Strange, which in turn gives way to religious iconography. It’s all thoroughly impressive, but you can’t help but feel that it has the creative thread of a GCSE art project. As the band kick into ‘Doomed’, a cathartic musical moment and continuation of what has become a huge sing-along, lasers leap from the stage to complete the arsenal of visual tools the band have at their disposal, and we’re left wondering what the next surprise will be.
The sing-along is over, at least for the moment. ‘Can You Feel The Heart’ kicks in and there is a palpable lift in the energy as if the crowd has tacitly accepted the challenge to bring the atmosphere back up to the intensity of the opening tracks. The venue rocks, as the samples rip through the space. This song is at the centre of the set for a reason, and it is clear that the seminal track is as important to the crowd as the band. Antivist follows, and whilst the attack is visceral and the band throw their all into it, it doesn’t quite land. The lyrics and imagery is at odds with the precision of the occasion: “middle fingers up, if you don’t give a fuck” – it’s hard to feel that the band don’t give a fuck when they have a 10 ft screen, streamers, lasers and ice cannons. It feels like many fucks are given. Not that you could question the band’s sincerity, it’s more a case that they haven’t fully realised how to authentically bring the raw honesty of their music to a show of this scale… not yet at least.
‘Throne’ rounds off the set (pre-encore), and is the embodiment of the new nature of Bring Me The Horizon; it’s stadium metal on a Linkin Park scale, with huge, hooky choruses, anthemic samples and precision production. It’s a big moment, and a manifestation of the band’s ambition.
The encore of ‘True Friend’s, ‘Oh No’ and ‘Drown’, are the ideal end to the night, a combination of all-out attack and sing-along emotion (despite more questionable visuals, as the stage during ‘Oh No’ looked like a scene from Tron).
As the ringing resounds in our ears on the river taxi away from The O2, it’s clear that BMTH are a band with incredible ambition; they make metal that has the vitality of Slipknot, the commercial cross-over value of Linkin Park and the emotive drive of 30 Seconds To Mars, all huge bands that have brought the heavier sides of rock music into the mainstream. Tonight’s protagonists have all of the tools to follow in the footsteps of these bands, but they aren’t quite there yet. They are still getting to grips with the scale that they have achieved, and how to deliver this in arena venues – this takes time, but it will come. This wasn’t their finest show but it was full of an ambition few bands even consider, keep going along this path and Bring Me The Horizon will be recognised alongside the biggest rock bands in the world.
One thing is for sure – they should be headlining festivals very soon, and with System Of A Down and Aerosmith lining up alongside a deserving Biffy for Download this year, rock music is in dire need of some new festival headliners.