It’s easy to see why this show is sold out. For one, you’ve got State Champs topping the bill, one of pop-punk’s hottest properties who’ve been on a consistent upswing for ages now, and finally giving their great sophomore album Around The World And Back a proper showing in the UK. Then there’s As It Is, the band whose latest album okay. was the most convincing sign to date that something great could come from them.
Oh, and Northbound (5), too, who are fine. As far as by-the-books emo in the vein of Modern Baseball or Balance And Composure goes they’re fine enough, but as is becoming an irritatingly rote point regarding these sort of bands, they’ve got not voice or personality of their own, and the whole thing goes in one ear and right out the other.
No such problems plague As It Is (8) thankfully, and bar the sleepy, acoustic mood-killer Still Remembering that drives a wedge right through the set’s centre, this is about as emphatic and energetic as a headline audition gets. There’s a number of Taking Back Sunday-isms that worm their way in, from the makeover of barbed urgency given to the likes of Soap and Can’t Save Myself that’s definitely welcome, to Patty Walters spinning and juggling his microphone in an attempt to branch out as a performer as well as a singer. The latter still remains his strongest suit though, getting inevitably huge reactions for Hey Rachael and Dial Tones that would suggest that topping the bill in a venue this size wouldn’t be out of the question.
As for State Champs (8), everything already said about As It Is can be copied and pasted onto them. They suffer the same problem of an unwelcome lull from the acoustic interlude (though If I’m Lucky‘s buildup to a full band effort is a nice touch), but away from that, there’s energy in buckets that never goes to waste. In what is their biggest headline show to date, State Champs’ A-game is difficult to not see, be it in the rumbling pop euphoria of Perfect Score, the stormy sweep of All Or Nothing which admittedly sounds a little thin to start but is quickly remedied, or the monster hooks of pretty much everything else that could go toe to toe with pop-punk’s biggest players.
And when State Champs really kick into gear, namely with their older material, it’s a wonder that they haven’t reached that status yet, especially with how the likes of Simple Existence, Remedy and a pretty huge Elevated manage to fill every inch of the room. And with a sole lighting rig at the back of the stage being the only thing even close to pomp and circumstance, it gives the actual music room to breathe on its own, and make that much more of a lasting impression. Considering State Champs are still on the up too, expect that to be a consistent factor for a long time to come.
Words by Luke Nuttall