The latest in a seemingly neverending series of reunions, Fightstar have come off their hiatus to play a series of shows (now that Charlie’s done his whole Mumford and Sons thing). As we all know by now, nostalgia gigs of this ilk can be split pretty evenly between “good” and “bad”; will this be more Refused or At The Drive-In? Unfortunately, you’ll have to sit through some paragraphs about the supports to find out – don’t get tetchy now.
Just a month short of two years ago, at this very venue I saw Finch play their seminal ‘What It Is To Burn’ album in full, and this review will tell you how it all went down. First on the bill that night were a young band called Cytota, who played a familiar blend of all things heavy, but it was forgivable given their tender average age of 18. However, they’ve now changed their name to SHVPES and their familiar blend has moved into even more well-trodden territory, sounding like the mediocrity Rise Records were peddling a couple of years ago. You all know the drill by now – Devil Wears Prada-esque chuggy bits, widdly bits and beefy beatdowns repeated ad nauseam over the course of a 30 minute set. The young quintet enjoy the experience, their guitarists taking full advantage of the vanity podiums the venue has kindly provided (although no-one takes a Madonna-esque tumble), but vocalist Griffin Dickinson’s leap off said podium to signal the start of a moshy breakdown is as mistimed as their sound, straight out of 2012. Listen to the other Shapes from Birmingham, you’ll find them a far more rewarding experience. (2/5)
The nepotism-centric bill continues with More Dangerous Animal, who feature Charlie’s brother Will on vocals and guitar. You may remember Will from his old outfit Brigade, a band that wrote material in the sensibilities of the BritRock greats, but lacked the powerhouse anthems to kick on. This new incarnation isn’t much different, except this time around it’s a bunch of older gentleman attempting to pertain to youthful exuberance. Will Simpson’s vocal falls victim to the notorious Brixton Academy butchering, but despite setbacks of this nature being beyond them, the set still fails to impress. If you still have the urge to hear songs akin to mid-2000s Biffy Clyro and Muse, look no further, but otherwise, More Dangerous Animal look set to fade into the same fate obscurity that met Brigade. (2.5/5)
Every preconception I had was working against Moose Blood – the diabolical lyrics (why would I need to hear a list of things emo kids like? I read Livejournal), the set I caught last year in which they were indescribably dull, those lyrics again… yet somehow, against all odds, they end up winning me over. While their songs are a clichéd blend of old Brand New and Jimmy Eat World, their sound belongs in venues the size of Brixton Academy, owning the room as the crowd swells to a healthy size. While this may not be the crowd for them (I don’t think anyone reminded the unmoving heads down the front there was a gig on), the Canterbury quartet prove they can create intimacy at 3,000 capacity theatres – a unique skill, without doubt. Who knows – perhaps headline shows at venues of this size are just around the corner? Just get your pronunciation of “Entendu” right, lads – you live next to France, it’s pretty embarrassing. (3.5/5)
Finally, the not-quite-sold-out Academy get what they’ve been waiting for – a glimpse of one of British post-hardcore’s finest, Fightstar, for the first (well, second – they played a Kentish Town Forum show last autumn) time since 2010. A rapturous response greets opener ‘Paint Your Target’, and the quartet respond in kind with a storming opening salvo, moving through first album title-track ‘Grand Unification Part I’ through later material like ‘War Machine’, each recieving the laudatory approval a good reunion show should get. Charlie Simpson is just as much of a stage presence as he has been for nearly 15 years, his “wounded buffalo” vocal sounding as endearingly hilarious as ever, and he even gets to do a Chino Moreno impression as he hands his guitar to brother Will for ‘Tannhauser Gate’ and ‘Deathcar’.
The best is saved until last in this set, as towards the end the entirety of their début EP ‘They Liked You When You Were Dead’ is played, first single ‘Palahniuk’s Laughter’ and bonus track ‘Hazy Eyes’ garnering the biggest reaction of the night. Proceedings are closed with the almighty ‘Mono’ (named for the Japanese band of the same name), but not before Fightstar revealing they have new material out in 2015, their first recorded effort since 2008’s ‘Be Human’. Whether or not that material meets the standard bar set by their earlier work we shall see, but for now, Fightstar emphatically place their name in the “good” half of the aforementioned reunion roster. Something that cannot be falsified is what this clearly means to the band, their beaming faces throughout telling us all we need to know. Welcome back boys – we’re as glad to see you as you are to see us. (4/5)
Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)