Across the other side of the Atlantic rock tours that feature ridiculously stacked bills packed with a ton of great bands hitting the road together to trawl endlessly around the US have become pretty much commonplace. All too often we here in the UK have to watch drooling as one mouth-watering bill after another winds its way to one American coast or the other and ends it there, failing to contemplate venturing any further afield as a touring package. Leaving us to wistfully reflect on what awesome nights we’ve been deprived of. One such tour was the mammoth Sleeping With Sirens and Pierce The Veil co-headliner which spent most of January and February bothering US arenas with Pvris and Mallory Knox in tow. Only this time, shock horror, they then brought the fun to our fair shores with R’n’B and Metalcore crossover heavyweights Issues joining the party.
With most of the run completely sold-out, Already Heard joined PTV and SWS’s admiring hordes for a packed, sweaty and excessively confetti drenched night at Leeds’ O2 Academy to witness first-hand the effects of two of the most idolised of the current crop of US heavy rock acts joining forces.
After practically tearing apart their tent at last year’s Leeds Festival with an explosive set that left the assembled members of team AH suitably blown away, there were high hopes for Issues’ set here. And true to form they didn’t disappoint, wasting little time in tearing into a short but blistering set that was highlighted by cracking airings of ‘Mad At Myself’ and ‘Never Lose Your Flames’. Tyler Carter’s irresistibly sweet vocals perfectly balanced the ferocious growl of Michael Bohn as both prowled the stage with the already excitable crowd firmly in their control. Only the crap vocal PA mix curse of the opening band could even remotely detract from Issues in this kind of all-conquering mood. (4/5)
Compared to what was to follow, Issues set was a relatively business like and no frills affair. But that quickly changed with the arrival of what felt like the band that most of the near hysterical eyeliner plastered teenagers crammed into the room were there to see. To say Sleeping With Sirens received a heroes reception would be putting it mildly. You could easily have been forgiven for assuming Kellin Quinn was some kind of demi-god from the unrelenting adulation he received as he strode on to the stage surrounded by wall to wall blasts of CO2 and the first of what can only be described as a shit ton of confetti cannon showers the night would see poured from the ceiling. Between the pomp and theatre of the entrance and the already keyed up kids there was no great surprise when opener and current single ‘Kick Me’ dropped and instantly made the entire room go properly bat crap mental. And that basically set the tone for the entire rest of the show. ‘Here We Go’ and ‘Congratulations’ were both blasted out with pomp and swagger in excess which only served to drive the frenzied atmosphere of the room to new heights.
’A Trophy Fathers Trophy Son’ was by far the most eagerly received song of the night to that point, and showed that, love him or feel utterly indifferent to him, Quinn can certainly put in one hell of a vocal shift. A short but reverentially observed acoustic section then provided a nice change of pace, a feel good mass singalong to ‘Roger Rabbit’ feeling oddly in contrast to the track’s decidedly downbeat lyrical nature, only to be dwarfed by the one given to an unexpected but excellently judged cover of the Goo Goo Dolls classic ‘Iris’. All the more surprising given that most of this audience were likely still crapping in nappies when the original was first released.
The few minutes the room had had to catch it’s collective breath meant that the appropriately named ‘Go Go Go’ sent energy levels soaring once more, a pit opening up as the posturing teeny boppers at least tried to have a bash at proper moshing. The track was arguably the pick of the bunch from SWS’ new record live, helped by its distinctly pop-punk undertones and also featuring several guitar fills more than a little reminiscent of a Blink song with a similar name.
That just left it to ‘If I’m James Dean..’ and ‘If You Can’t Hang’ to bring the set to a full blooded, and it must be admitted, strikingly triumphant close. Naturally with a few more rounds of CO2 and confetti cannons thrown in for good measure. Between the theatrics, bells and whistles stage extras and the added acoustic section, not to mention a varied career spanning set list, this felt a lot more like an out and out headline set fit to close the night. Not a performance by the second of a three band bill. Consequently there was a very noticeable sense of anti-climax once Quinn and co had left the stage. (4/5)
This overbearing sense of anti-climax wasn’t remotely helped by the night’s actual headliners Pierce The Veil taking their sweet time taking to the stage. A good 40 odd minute wait after SWS had finished meant that things had gone a little flat by the time the lights went out to signal Pierce The Veil’s arrival. Sure plenty of screams met each band member of the band’s silhouette being projected in turn on to the stage cloth, and there was a wave of excitement that rippled through the room once both the cloth and opener ‘May These Noises Startle You In Your Sleep Tonight Dropped’, but for the first few songs of the set there was a lingering hangover from the previous band hanging over the crowd. Thankfully the full force of Vic Fuentes personality and Pierce The Veil’s much more striking metal meets pop-rock sound eventually sent this funk packing.
With tracks like ‘Caraphernelia’ and ‘Bulls In The Bronx’ bringing the riffs in abundance and a fired up Fuentes killing both his clean and throat shredding vocals, this set quickly turned into a full bore and super fun romp that even featured some nailed intricate Spanish guitar work. Not something you see that often that one.
Riled up by the added bite and punch of PTV’s sound compared to their predecessors, the O2 was soon even rowdier then it had been earlier. Late in the set ‘A Match Into Water’ even saw Fuentes organise one of the more timidly approached and carefully executed walls of death live music has ever seen. Although given it was filled almost exclusively with post-pubescent’s struggling to see through their eye make-up this can probably be forgiven.
Earlier ‘Props and Mayhem’ did a passable job of living up to its name, its driving bass line and more of those CO2 cannons getting most of the room bouncing. A second acoustic interlude lost some of its impetus after the earlier one, but Fuentes still did a decent job of leading the masses in a stripped back solo airing of ‘I’m Low On Gas And You Need A Jacket’. ‘Bulletproof Love’ then got hands up and clapping to close the main set. But PTV had saved the best for last as the encore performance of ‘King For A Day’ (sadly without a guest appearance from Quinn) provided the night’s undeniable highlight. (4/5)
This was an evening that showed commercial US heavy rock is clearly in rude good health; and it’s hard not to see a future repeat of Pierce The Veil and Sleeping With Sirens touring the UK together being able to make the step up and do decent business in selected arenas. However to view the presentation and stage show of both bands, with the focus on the looks and personalities of the frontmen and a huge over reliance on flashy stage gimmicks like the CO2 and endless confetti cannon shots, over the strength of the songs, with a healthy dose of cynicism; then the whole package starts to whiff a little as being over hyped beginner heavy rock for the 1D generation. Basically too much attention grabbing flash and show and not enough substance. Oh and an awful lot of nattily designed merchandise too. Still, this was a fun evening of three bands at the absolute top of their game live that managed to be varied enough while maintaining a reasonably close appeal between all of the acts.
Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright). Photos by Jade Till.