Live Review: Of Mice & Men, Crown the Empire and Hands Like Houses – O2 Academy, Glasgow – 05/10/2016

There’s a curious sight upon entrace to Glasgow’s revered O2 Academy tonight. Peering up to the ceiling of the venue widely considered to be the primary Scottish venue headlined by bands whose profile is just below the numbers that can sell out arenas, large white drapes can be seen covering the balcony section. One must wonder what this bodes for Of Mice & Men, who sold out this same venue in 2014 and have since played shows with rock royalty Slipknot and Linkin Park? How have they justified closing the balcony?

Before that question can be answered, openers Hands Like Houses deliver a bouyant set comprising largely of material from their latest record ‘Dissonants’. The bounce of tracks like ‘I Am’ and ‘Perspectives’ packs a punch, however not quite a hard enough hit to fill the entire floorspace, which can be felt from a stagnant crowd reaction save for the occasional “hands in the air” moment, which comes full force furing closer ‘Introduced Species’. In spite of suck lack in momentum, the band appear to be having the time of their lives on stage, which is reflected in bassist Joel Tyrell’s onstage boogieing dressed as metalcore’s John Travolta, head to toe in white. (3/5)

Keeping the Wednesday night fever in high spirits, Crown the Empire deliver a more crushing set, with a varying range of songs from 2011 EP ‘Limitless’ to the newly released ‘Retrograde’ with established tracks ‘Voices’ and ‘The Fallout’ getting the crowd into mosh mode. Most striking is the brazen confidence of frontman Andrew Velazquez, whose live-wire persona comes out in his larger-than-life dance moves to his band’s melodic chugging and his crowd command, best exemplified in getting a fan to buy him a shot at the bar before crowdsurfing to the front of the stage to give it to him. And the fact that he does it without a drop being spilt is enough to make their set an unexpected highlight. (4/5)

In the wake of news that Of Mice & Men have cancelled the remaining dates of their European tour as a result of frontman Austin Carlisle’s continuing health problems, tonight’s show gives little indication that sickness was an impending fate for the vocalist. Whipping the crowd into an instant frenzy ‘Pain’, the first released single from new album ‘Cold World’ the everyone begins jumping, bodies slam into one another and the band revel in the chaos they create.

On record, Cold World feels like a lesser product in OM&M’s back catologue, weaker production and songwriting that looks to seek acceptance on Active Rock radio stations in the US hinders it from being as worthy a follow up to ‘Restoring Force’ and ‘The Flood.’ However, the scope to tracks like ‘Real’ and ‘Relentless’ create a greater impact in a live setting as Alan Ashby’s riffs burst out the venue’s PA sounding beefier than listening to the record at home. Meanwhile, the sombre balladry of ‘Away’ alights the audience in the entire venue.

Of course, at this stage OM&M have such a vast selection of hits in their back catolgue to choose from, that a strong crowd reaction could always be guaranteed. And sure enough, sharp performances of ‘Would You Still Be There’ and ‘Broken Generation’ provides giant singalongs while a ferocious run through of ‘The Depths’ gains the biggest circle pit of the evening before Austin’s cries of “GET UP!”“ ensues absolute chaos among the academy, before closing on a rousing perforamnce of ‘Second and Sebring’ giving everyone a final chance to slam into each other while giving their vocal chords all they have to the iconic chorus ‘This is not what it is, only baby scars, I need you now, like a child needs his mother’s side.’ (4/5)

It’s a satisying close to Of Mice & Men’s set, but the dissatisfaction begins to set in when observing how thin the entire crowd in the O2 Academy feels. Not only is the balcony closed off, but the main standing area seems to be a third full. It raises questions as to whether OM&M’s time in the spotlight is fading after seeming like they were metal’s brightest new hopes. Perhaps for those who were at the sold out show in 2014, the interest in the band was passing, but for those who have stuck by the band tonight, they were awarded by an exceptional performance.

4/5

Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)

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