Saturday, 16 February 2013

Live review: All Time Low - O2 Academy, Glasgow

As I began settling into life at university in Aberdeen and my sister began settling into her life at second year of uni in Edinburgh, we kind of realised something that we never really sussed out during years of living together in Blairgowrie. We missed each other. We were spending longer periods of time apart and it gets to a point where phone calls don't really do the job of spending quality time together. I knew that last weekend would be the first time that I'd get a chance to see my sister since leaving to start my second semester at the start of the year, and it meant I would like to hang out somewhere special, out of the norm for the night. Perhaps going to a gig for something very rare indeed. A gig for a band we both enjoy. And this is ultimately what prompted me to buy tickets for tonight's show. From our days of boredom spent watching Kerrang! TV, we both gained quite the affinity for Baltimore's pop punk sweethearts All Time Low, so when I found out they were playing at Glasgow's very fine branch of the O2 Academy, I knew I had to get a ticket.

Unfortunately, the timing taken to purchase said tickets results in us spending the night up in the balcony in the unreserved sitting section. Now, in case you weren't aware, I will advise you now, if you are passionate about going to gigs and seeing the crowd reaction, avoid unreserved seating tickets like supermarket meat. It will destroy your soul to see just how little care the majority of the crowd seem to have. And in some sense that will sound preposterous. I mean, they spent their money and stood in the major queue like everyone else, there's got to be some care somewhere. But as I manage to peer down on the people in the unreserved standing section, it's clear to see where the real fun is being had.

Before we focus solely on the gig details, it's worth examining the kind of reputation that All Time Low hold in their forms of touring, if you will. There's a divide in how they stand in your music collection. For some (me), they're like the glossier poppier band in a music collection championed by harder and rougher rock bands. For others (my sister), they're the rougher guitar playing band in a collection championed by glossy pop singers. Make sense? Maybe. In the US, the band clearly have a higher reputation of a band in the former position. More rock fans will see them as a relieving source of hooks and cheer. You just have to look at the fact that throughout April and May, they're embarking on a co-headline tour with Pierce the Veil, a band that are clearly made of harder stuff. Looking at much of tonight's crowd, I don't think they could possibly get away with something like that in the UK. We're in the latter category. We're a bunch of pop loving sissies. 

And so, tonight's lineup reflects the two ways that ATL's fans view them overall as a pop rock band. It means that the people that view them as the rock band in their pop collection go crazy for opening act The Summer Set hailing from Arizona, and not Somerset, to the surprise of my sister and I. 
Naturally, my sister falls for the sweet hooks and choruses covered in a radio friendly sheen, and much of the crowd manage to make some kind of effort to prove they're on the same page. But I am not like my sister and I can't really find myself falling in love with the band as so many around em effortlessly manage. In honesty, I had a bad start with the band as we arrived to them beginning a cover of Bruno Mars' Locked Out of Heaven and follow up with a performance of average pop rock songs leaving me thinking that this is nothing but really average and has me looking at bassist Stephen Gomez wondering "Is he even plugged in?" I mean, it's good for what it is, but hearing covers of Top 40 pop songs and hearing frontman Brian Dales' unleashing horribly forced lines of banter like "Hey, I got a hole in my shirt. I don't think it'll be the only piece of skin I have showing by the end of the night." isn't hearing the sound of a band that carries much ambition or integrity. But of course this is my life and that means everyone loves them and I am looked at a a boring bastard for not enjoying them. In fact they're so loved that later on, people fall over stairs for them. Fellow coursemate, if you are reading this, I'm sorry. I suck.

After the spread of giddying cheer that came from The Summer Set, the natural follow up is the band that will appease more to those that see All Time Low as the pop band in their rock collection. A less-than-happy reaction from fans came about when Lower Than Atlantis first announced on their Facebook page that they would be the main support on this tour. I mean there are obvious reasons for it. Some just can't get over the fact that they've gotten huge over the past few years and aren't playing in front of 40 people while supporting Architects anymore, which is an argument I can never really get behind, after all a band should tour with who they want if they want more exposure. The other argument is that it shouldn't be worth LTA's time to play a brilliant set every night only to be unappreciated by a crowd only wanting one band. And judging by tonight's crowd, this is an argument I can get behind. Obviously, opening for a poppy band, they're needing to pull out all the hits, so as they come onstage to a blinding Love Someone Else and my sister discovers what it's like to hear a heavy breakdown live for the first time, they establish that they're the real rock band of the night, whether the audience want it or not. And so, it's hit after hit after hit. If the World Was to End, Go On StrikeDeadliest Catch, (Motor)Way of Life all performed with much solidity and something of an awareness that they're the heaviest band here and a revolving thought on whether this is something worth being proud or self-conscious about. It's the best they can do with this crowd, but the real rock fans are left smiling, especially during Mike Duce's decent onstage banter and command for everyone sitting downstairs to take part in a faux-Slipknot crazy test as everyone sits on the floor only to jump up in a single moment of derangement. Which as you could imagine... is so much fun... to watch... from the balcony. Yeah. And as I look at the crowd losing there mind while those around me on the balcony blankly stare on and gaze at their phones. Indeed, they might not be getting into the music but it seems like some respect should be shown to them. This is just rude. I suppose we'll have to wait for their own headlining tour to see them get the appreciation they fully deserve.

Fuck me, I'm actually embarrassed by my photography attempts.

Of course, the crowd immediately put their phones away and begin cheering emphatically once the main backdrop is removed to reveal a massive "ATL" written on separate circles and indeed, four young men from Baltimore emerge onstage, ready to give the crowd the full display of Lower Than Atlantis' riff-lead punk belters laced in Summer Set gloss that the crowd has been demanding all this time. Much of tonight's set is a masterclass lesson in how to get a room of girls screaming above everything else. With every line of Alex Gaskarth's onstage banter which is fully improvised unlike some, Mr. Dales, the crowd are cheering along in the sheer recklessness and surprises of the moment. And then of course, there's the songs themselves. All Time Low couldn't write a small chorus if they tried and they prove it with their latest offering Don't Panic which has seen them going back to basics and back to their best. Naturally the likes of For Baltimore and The Reckless and the Brave fit in perfectly with a long line of previous tunes like Lost in Stereo, Forget About It and Six Feet Under the Stars. Personally, 2009's Nothing Personal is for me their best album so I revel in the moments in which works from that album are played and even have a full moment of sudden clarity when Alex introduces Stella as being a song about beer. Man, that was smart of me. Of course, the most triumphant moment of the evening is the double whammy closing pair of Weightless (which definitely isn't one of my favourite songs ever, nope.) and Dear Maria, Count Me In, the audience lap it up. And genuine headbanging unfolds for the first time, thankfully. Of course, up in the balcony things are much less awesome. I'm the most enthusiastic person by some distance beyond the odd drunk dancing girl and enthusiastic 12 year old whose parents look on without much concern. Plus everyone keeps shouting out for songs that I don't know as well, which is kind of annoying. Maybe I'll see them again when they announce they're playing Nothing Personal in it's entirety.

Of course, as I've stated this is a crowd that for the most part view ATL as the rock band in their pop collection, so the overall reaction is mostly void of enjoyable rock show ethics that Lower Than Atlantis were so desperately in demand for. But in the face of this crowd All Time Low still put on a performance worthy of a strong reputation of a rock band, that means they can be put on the bill for Sonisphere festival to the dismay of those who will go to watch a different band on at the same time as them. The kind of order and slick perfection that you'd see at the shows of many of the band s that this audience also listens to is not present. And with that extra chaos comes extra fun. Really, tonight All Time Low prove at times of having a constantly unsure reaction from the public that they really do belong in the rock crowd. Even if much tonight's audience doesn't realise it.

And with that, the show is over and done. And when the weekend finishes, I'm back to Aberdeen and my sister is back to Edinburgh. Who knows if we'll ever be able to have a meetup like that again. Well actually, I do know when we're next going to a gig together, but that's another story for another day. Either way, we spend tonight watching a band we both love and having a great time in our own ways. Ironically, we leave with our spirits at an all time high.

By the way, bad seating also means bad photography.

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