So Bayside and Hit the Lights return to England together, after both had some considerable time away from these shores. This tour is one of those lightly pointless confusing 'co-headliner' ones. I mean, seriously, is it just so one of the bands feelings don't get hurt about being on the undercard? "No, we want our name just as big as theirs! And higher!" Either way, the crowd was a little on the thin side, but I suppose it was because it was a Tuesday night in December and minus one outside.
Anyway, the first band to play who definitely weren't headlining was Oh No Not Stereo. I won't lie -- the name did not invoke much confidence. However, I also pretty much missed most of their set due to arriving late, alcohol, leaving the venue to find other people and other things which I considered more important than watching them. Alas, I shall not pass judgement; it would be unfair.
So Hit the Lights came on stage, starting with "Count It",' the opener off the new album Skip School, Start Fights, with lyrics like "We played our hearts out, we wore our throats down...through rain and sleet and snow and oceans, just to get through to you."
I mean, I know the song is supposed to be a tribute to touring and fans, but it was an incredibly dumb way to kick off a gig. And the crowd felt it, leaving Hit the Lights to run off their next three songs to little more than the tap of the occasional foot.
Aware they were bombing harder than a concrete aeroplane which just had its wings blown off, the band attempted to get the crowd going, and were fortunately reasonably successful. The rest of their set proved much more animated, with their catchiest tracks "Drop the Girl," "309" and closer "Bodybag" going down very well.
There were occasional other failures, as some of the lesser-known songs off the new album recieved lukewarm responses at best, whilst I don't think anyone in the entire place knew the words to their cover of Midtown's "Another Boy."
All in all they were solid, although new vocalist Nick Thompson took a while to warm up, and if I hadn't have known he started off life in the band as a guitarist on backing vocals, I would have guessed it (but I'm sure he'll get better over time). Furthermore, they completely failed to play some of their best tracks off Skip School ("Tell Me Where You Are," "Winding Down," "Don't Wait"), but I know exactly why -- they are studio songs that would have sounded somewhat dodgy live. So, while on record, this band sometimes work outside the old and established boundaries of 'pop-punk,' playing live, they very much conform to them.
Bayside. Bayside were good. I struggle to say more than that, really. They seemed to be going through the motions more than anything, even though this was the first night of the gig. The new stuff off Shudder was excellent, reinforcing my view that it is their best record in quite awhile. The crowd was split pretty much half and half between the two 'co-headliners'; some of the Hit the Lights crew had clearly fucked off, leaving them with a 75% full room where another 25% were clearly not big fans.
The result was a nice, up-close and personal crowd experience to a band who were very tight and professional, but lacking that something to really take the roof off, a problem I think has always held Bayside back...but "Devotion and Desire" did provide a superb finish.
In conclusion, a solid night of pop-punk fun, well worth the trip and my £10, but never in danger of becoming a classic gig.