A little over a year ago, All Time Low smashed a successful UK arena tour in heroic fashion. This week they’re back in the country playing shows in the bigger clubs. Ordinarily you’d take that as a sign of a band in decline, but that doesn’t feel like the case here. If anything, it seems like it’s the calm before the storm, as the Baltimore natives recently announceda deal with Fuelled By Ramen and debuted a new more mature melodic pop rock sound perfect for dominating radio waves the world over. You’d expect this tour to be the deep breath before the dive, completing something they’ve been threatening to do for a decade, explode into bona fide mainstream dominating superstars.
If this is a warm up for their global expansion, they could have done far worse than bringing two of the US’s brightest pop-punk and punk prospects along for the ride in Waterparks and SWMRS. A trio of bands which we caught at Leeds’ O2 Academy.
Of the new crop of American pop-punkers, no act has broken onto the scene with quite the exuberance or ear for an outrageously catchy chorus hook as Waterparks since, well All Time Low. As such, the chance to see both acts on the same bill was a great if potentially exhausting one. Especially after we were wowed by the band at last year’s Leeds Festival. That said, this was a performance which never quite hit those heights, largely due to Awsten Knight being distinctly under the weather. Still he battled gainfully through with both ’Crave’ and ’Hawaii (Stay Awake)’ proving as fun as ever, while even a sound much less crisp for having two live guitarists rather than guitar and bass couldn’t detract from the delightful hook of closer ’Royal’(3/5).
Anyone that’s heard their debut album ‘Drive North’ will be fully aware that, on record at least, SWMRS are rather bloody good. Naturally, we were pretty stoked to see how they measure up live. And after just one blast of ’Palm Trees’s addictive chorus they showed they’re even more of a riotously good time in the flesh. ’Miley’s off kilter ode to everyone’s favourite former child star kept the good times rolling in abrasive fashion, before the raucous joy of ’Figuring it Out’ combined the quirky pop sensibilities of Motion City Soundtrack with the punk spirit of Against Me. There’s no way to put a finer point on it then to say Swmrs are really fucking great. They’re snotty, anarchic and awkwardly unpredictable live in a way few bands are without it being forced these days. (4/5)
The room may have been smaller but the production value and performance of All Time Low’s set was every bit as blinding as their arena-based efforts. Alex Gasgarth and his band mates have seemingly been incapable of putting on a bad show for years, and this was no exception. ’Kicking and Screaming’ and ’Weightless’ made short work of turning the Academy into a wall to wall party, while the good natured sophomoric banter still manages not to feel rehearsed or forced.
’Six Feet Under The Stars’ serves a reminder of how long the quartet have been turning out potent pop-punk, with ’Finding Neverland’ and ’Cinderblock Garden’ highlight the growth in the maturity and fullness of the melodies they’ve crafted in recent years. For all Alex and Jack provide the showmanship and humour of ATL’s live presence, it’s the machine like rhythm section of Rian and Zach that really makes them such a tight act musically, with both flawless in their execution and intensity.
One of the most intriguing things about this set was just how new single ’Dirty Laundry’ would fit into it with its fairly different sound. Really well as it happened, as next to songs from the band’s last two albums it sounds like a natural progression. It’s complex and interesting enough musically that Jack Barakat even stopped running his mouth for a few minutes to properly concentrate on playing guitar, while the track’s vocal riff sounded incredible sung back at the stage by a thousand voices. Later, the obligatory solo acoustic performance of ’Therapy’ added a welcome change of pace and tone before a decent response to the less well known ’Take Cover’ indicated there were plenty of die-hard fans resent. That just left it to an encore of ’Lost In Stereo’ and ’Dear Maria, Count Me In to give the venue two last chances to bounce its collective hearts out as on and go home gleefully happy. (4.5/5)
Based on continued showings of this quality All Time Low are just too damn good a live act to not be playing arenas on every future visit to the UK, although that will depend of course on the reception to ‘Last Young Renegades’ this summer. It’s hard not to see them making the step up to the level of new label mates Paramore and Panic! At The Disco; they can already put on a live show to match both so only a fool would bet against it.