Upon arrival at Shepherds Bush Empire for tonight’s gig, there is a definite sense of anticipation on the faces of the mostly young crowd (with bored, slightly awkward parental chaperones) already queuing round the block and past the O’Neils pub (making a pre-gig pint a tricky, queue barging affair.) I suspect it is many of those in attendance’s first gig tonight and I can only hope that their heroes All Time Low deliver them a night to remember.
First up is The Summer Set, pop-darlings from sunny Arizona. It says a lot about the position All Time Low have risen to that this opening band can only be very loosely described as alternative music. These well-dressed youngsters have more in common with the Jonas Brothers than any of the other bands on the bill but the audience present tonight do not mind; on the contrary, the crowd tonight is enamoured with their neat pop hooks and gorgeous melodies. (3/5)
Next up, representing Great Britain proudly, is Lower Than Atlantis who turn up on bills likes this more often than horse meat gets found in supermarket produce. There is a slightly muted response for these up-and-coming Brits with their more brutish and less coiffured appearance; the high energy rock ‘n’ roll proves too much for some as the first casualties are plucked, fainting, from the mosh pits. The band plays their heart out nonetheless proving how hard-working these guys are. There are dutiful sing along moments in the form of killer singles ‘Motor (Way of Life)’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’; one would imagine there will be a much better reception when the band come back and headline this venue in April, but for tonight they have to accept they are not the main attraction. (3/5)
All Time Low is most definitely the main attraction though; they are welcomed on stage by cheering at least an octave higher than normal in a deafening display of affection from the young crowd. The band’s set is heavily loaded with tracks from their newly released fifth studio album ‘Don’t Panic’, as the band drop the three singles from this album within the first twenty minutes of a lengthy, 2-hour long set. It is certainly a hit-filled set, although the band also finds time to drop in old favourites like ‘Jasey Rae’ and ‘Coffee Shop Soundtrack’. On a side note, there is also a very proficient lighting display accompanying the band tonight, adding to the natural energy on stage.
Despite the wall-to-wall hits and the fact the band clearly have the young teenage audience hanging on every word they say, there is something deeply unsettling about All Time Low’s performance tonight; it is the way they sexualise their young teenage audience. It is something that has long bothered me about the band and something that has only gotten more intolerable given the fact the band are now all in their mid-twenties. By the end of the first song, for example, there are at least half a dozen bras thrown onstage that are then proudly displayed on a microphone stand for the remainder of the set; you would think the band would be embarrassed by this behaviour but instead they actively encourage it, making a number of sexual jokes throughout the set. It may not make much difference to the youngsters in attendance tonight but as role models to teenagers, I do not feel comfortable with the tone of All Time Low’s stage “banter” tonight. Despite finishing with their two biggest hits (‘Weightless’ and ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’) to rapturous applause, I still cannot shake off the sense of unease I feel when I see and hear the band exploit their young, female audience. Not cool, All Time Low. Not cool at all. (2/5)