Live Review: Yellowcard, Normandie and Kenneths – University Stylus, Leeds – 20/12/2016

In many different ways 2016 will be remembered as a year of goodbyes. One of the most bittersweet being Floridian pop-punkers Yellowcard’s decision to bring down the curtain down on their twenty-year anthem packed career. Their worldwide farewell tour saw the band hit our shores for one last jaunt around the UK over the last couple of weeks, and we bid our fond goodbye as the tour rolled into Leeds University’s Stylus.

The evening’s openers, rabble rousing London trio Kenneths are quickly making a lot of noise as the next great hope in UK punk. And, despite not being quite melodic enough to go down a storm with a die-hard YC crowd, it’s not hard to see why. Their snotty hooks, to the point shout along choruses and frenetic basslines all showing plenty to like for a young band playing their biggest tour to date. Kudos too to drummer Aicha for being tough as nails and blasting her way through the set with a broken foot without it being remotely clear anything was wrong. (3/5)

Up-and-coming Swedish pop-rockers Normandie are out to show that their home country can produce more than just incendiary punk and token Scandinavian metal, having dropped their debut album ’Inguz’ this year. They do a solid job of showing what they have to offer on this occasion, combining an already polished live show with a heavy take on pop-rock that’s impactful without stomping down the overtrodden Easycore route. In particular, their rhythm section is punchy and adds bite to their sound, cutting through the electronic trickery to great effect. Frontman also Philip Strand puts in a versatile and composed shift; his rangy cleans and throaty snarls hitting all the right spots. (3.5/5)

Then it was finally time for one last reminder of just how much better pop-punk sounds with a violin. Due to technical problems marring Yellowcard’s last Leeds visit for Slam Dunk back in May that saw them unable to deliver the promised performance of ’Ocean Avenue’ in full, Yorkshire finally got to hear every glorious track in full and in order here. Meaning the sold-out crowd got an entirely different show to the rest of the tour, something that had both its positives and negatives. As you’d expect witnessing one of the genre’s most beloved albums played live made for a memorable experience. But set lists and album track lists are structured differently for a reason, each having a unique need on what makes for the best ebb and flow of mood and pace. Consequently ’Ocean Avenue’, easily their biggest hit, and the track that climaxed every other night of tour in a euphoric nostalgia soaked high, appeared just three songs in. This appeared to leave some present in a state of anti-climax for the majority of the set still remaining.

Not that there weren’t still amazing moments to come, in particular stirring singalongs to ’Empty Apartments’ and ’Only One’ and a poignant acoustic performance of ’One Year Six Months’. Due to the set list being dominated by songs from ‘Ocean Avenue’ and this being bassist Josh Portman’s first show back after illness the previous weekend, the band played a reduced set compared to the rest of the tour, limiting songs from their other albums predominantly to the encore. ’Awakening’ showed again it’s one of their most underrated tracks, while the rarely played ’Gifts and Curses’ added another special air to proceedings. Leaving just a heartfelt speech from Ryan Key and a triumphant rendition of ’Lights and Sounds’ to entice every ounce of energy and feeling out of everyone left in the room. (4.5/5)

Unlike other bands who used farewell tours as a cynical money spinner, this seems to be an end planned from the heart and meant to last. And what better memories for Yellowcard to leave their British fans with then playing the best possible shows they could in challenging circumstances and bowing out on a high. Thanks for the memories, the music and those incredible choruses gentlemen.

4/5

Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright)

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