Which pretty neatly sums up my gig-going experiences of the last three weeks. With bands from my dim and distant past reforming and playing shows – Knapsack, Mineral and As Friends Rust, I’m looking at you – and bands which will play a big part in my future – The Hotelier and Beach Slang in particular – all hitting the stage, it’s felt like a major convergence of the past and future in the here and now.
And then there’s American Football.
There’s a lot of bands I love from the past but few as much as American Football. Unsurprisingly, as a band I have listened to a lot over the years, their sole, self-titled album has gone through a lot with me and it has a lot of baggage. So would Kinsellas Mike and Nate and Steves Holmes and Lamos be able to translate something so intensely personal to the big stage and make it a communal experience?
First up were TTNG (or This Town Needs Guns). I always feel bad for bands playing shows like this as they could put on the set of their lives and still have it forgotten at the end. They even apologise for not being very good the previous night, but there’s no need for such contrition today, as they sound great. It’s clear they’ve worshipped at the Kinsella alter but they’re the ideal opening act. Mike Kinsella will joke later that they’re music nerds who spend too long practicing, but they’re phenomenally talented and clearly stoked to be playing with one of their heroes. Pretty much everyone imaginable gets a shout out in thanks, and if anything they only heighten the expectation around the imminent arrival of the Illinois emo heroes. (3.5/5)
Unsurprisingly the place erupts when American Football finally hit the stage. But there’s also a hushed reverence as the band go through their paces. It’s rare for a venue of the Electric Ballroom to be so quiet you could hear a pin drop but that’s how it seems at times as people soak in the ambience. Indeed, it’s remarkable to see just how many people have a strong personal connection to the likes of ‘Five Silent Miles’, which sounds utterly spellbinding. And it’s on delicate moments such as this where the addition of Nate Kinsella really lifts the sound, making it fill the nondescript, characterless Electric Ballroom.
As a result, all of the groups more delicate moments sound heartbreakingly gorgeous. ‘For Sure’, with its beautiful trumpet line is almost cinematic, while the epic ‘Stay Home’ is nine minutes of poetic beauty.
Fortunately, Mike Kinsella ensures the show isn’t too po-faced and serious, joking about his favourite – and least favourite member – of the band and such humour helps make it an enjoyable, rather than too reverential an atmosphere.
Throw in a couple of sing-alongs to – ‘I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional’ and ‘But The Regrets Are Killing Me’ in particular both helped define the modern emo blueprint and are both spectacular live, and received as such, while an encore ending on the hugely popular ‘Never Meant’ ensures fans go home elated. “See you in August, London. That’s a hint,” says Kinsella, alluding to an as-yet unannounced return (the band has already confirmed for Reading and Leeds). You’d be mad to miss them. (4.5/5)
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)