Date: 31st august 2018
Review and Photography By Graham Hilling
There’s already a sizeable queue forming outside the Shepherds Bush Empire this evening as I arrive just before the doors open. This evening’s entertainment is being supplied by Lowlives and The Used.
I have to admit, I’m primarily interested in Lowlives, having been a fan of The Defiled (Lowlives frontmans previous band) and liking the sound of the rather sparse material that has so far been unleashed into the public domain.
Having only 2 bands means that Lowlives can take to the stage at a sensible hour when the venue has had plenty of time to fill out a little.
This is the case this evening and as they take to the stage there is already a sizeable crowd waiting for them. The Defiled had a strong London following and it is clear that some of those folks have come along this evening (much the same as myself) to check out the direction of the new band.
As soon as they hit the stage, it is obvious there is a complete style change from The Defiled and a fresh new look and sound. The same hook laden song writing is still in evidence and Lee Villian (frontman and obviously not a real name!) still has the same vocal style.
From the get go, there’s no shortage of energy either, with bassist Steve Lucarelli leaping around the stage like a man possessed.
The sound is difficult to pigeon hole (which is mostly a good thing), taking its influences from a raft of different musical genres, including punk and a bit of grunge.
At times, I could almost hear Nirvana influences creeping in. Indeed, Lee sounds like Kurt Cobain on more than one occasion tonight.
Although there isn’t much in the way of recorded material available yet, it did seem like the crowd had done their homework and were able to sing along on at least 2 of the songs.
To be fair, the choruses are catchy and easily adopted too. Starting with the carefully crafted “Thieves”, Lowlives set about making new friends and winning the audience over with definite purpose and vision.
“Black Hole” is another song that demonstrates the songwriting abilities very well, and some more great vocals.
Luke Johnson continues to beat the living daylights out of the drums during the short performance, providing a solid foundation for the other members to layer their sound on. By the time that the set draws to a conclusion with “Hate” and “Burn Forever” the crowd is fully on board.
It’s an intoxicating combination of songwriting and great vocals throughout; Lowlives came to conquer and I doubt if many members of the audience would doubt that they were successful tonight. Can’t wait for the next chance to catch them live…..
The Used are a band that I’m embarrassed to say I’ve not really been aware of up to this point. Not really sure why because tonight they put on a sparkling performance definitely worthy of a headliner. By the time they take to the stage the venue is heaving full, and the atmosphere is starting to become electric.
Starting with “Take it Away” from the 2004 album “In Love and Death” sets the scene with its infectious chorus and fine rock and pop sensibilities. From the outset, it is clear that vocalist Bert McCracken loves to connect with his audience, indeed his inter-song conversations with the audience probably take up the space occupied by a whole song were they to be replaced by music!
He chats about Shakespeare and recites sonnets while encouraging the crowd to form a massive circle pit. “Listening” is followed by “I Caught Fire” (both from “In Love and Death”). McCracken then speaks of 6 years of freedom from alcohol, being a recovering alcoholic and various other aspects of his life. There is also a little bit of anti-Trump stuff which seems to be the norm at gigs these days!
Most of the set is comprised of songs dating back over 10 years tonight, indeed, nothing on the setlist tonight appears to be from the latest album, “The Canyon”, which is a little surprising. We are treated to a cover of “Shadow of the Day” by Linkin Park, with McCracken musing on the death of Chester Bennington in 2017.
“Blood on my Hands” is introduced as being “about my first period…”, cranks up the pace a little and has the crowd all singing along. Actually, most of the songs have cracking sing-along choruses and it’s good to see the crowd in fine voice. While I’m not completely won over by the music there is no doubting that the crowd are enjoying themselves immensely and it is difficult to ignore the energy of both the band and audience.
“On My Own” slows things down and allows a little bit of space for thought. “All That I’ve Got” continues in similar vein, allowing the crowd further time to take a bit of a breather.
“Buried Myself Alive” and “Pretty Handsome Awkward” follow, and then the evening is nearly over and The Used leave the stage.
“A Box Full of Sharp Objects” sees them back for the encore and closes off the evening, leaving the crowd wanting more and wondering how McCracken can scream like this night after night without losing his voice!