Singing, shouts and screams: BMTH prove that they are ready to headline festivals with a rip-roaring performance to blow the O2 Arena away.
As doors opened and the people began to flood into the notorious London O2 Arena, they were greeted by the heavy sound of first support act Basement. In many ways, Basement produced a similar atmosphere to that of most opening acts: not bad, but very evident this was not the main spectacle. Their grungy guitars and weighty feel shook the dome, but the crowd just wasn’t with them. It also felt like those big crowd jitters had hit lead singer Andrew Fisher, who was noticeably timid when interacting with the crowd (as were the whole band), and whose vocals were very shaky at times.
By the end of the opening set, the venue was really beginning to fill, and final support act Don Broco made sure that they didn’t disappear for a pre-BMTH pint. Right from the get-go, Don Broco had the crowd pandering to their swagger, mimicking the evident good time the band were relishing up on stage. The Bedford four-piece moved around the stage seamlessly, and the energy they produced on stage transferred effortlessly to those dancing around the arena. Rob Damiani – Don Broco lead singer – danced about the stage without a care in the world, which distracted from the fact he was suffering from a very sore throat (though with help of drummer and backing vocalist, Matt Donnelly, he still performed superbly, even adding some grit to their alt-rock anthems).
A truly feel-good performance from Don Broco had a now packed-to-the-hilt O2 Arena primed and ready for the nights main offering. The lights dropped to black out, leaving five colossal electronic screens flickering behind the stage. The lights came up, the crowd went mad, and in sync with the beginning of opening track ‘Happy Song’ the letters S-P-I-R-I-T appeared behind the raucous five-man band. The intro ended, frontman Oli Sykes screamed ‘let’s go!’ – and the place erupted into chaos. Energetic. Charismatic. Raw. The crowd did just as was asked of them from the lyrics of the song: ‘sing along, a little f*cking louder’, in amongst the numerous pits that had spontaneously sprouted around the standing section of the arena.
However, through the madness of this opening number, one thing was blatantly apparent. Latest album That’s The Spirit represents the first BMTH album that Oli doesn’t produce that scream in as often. Instead, all the tracks focus on singing – a complete change from Sempiternal (2013) and the albums before. As this arena tour is part of promoting this new album, crowds witnessed a lot more of Oli singing rather than screaming – and it is not all that impressive. Songs in the set-list such as Happy Song, Follow You and Doomed all have relatively softly sung verses, and it was during these moments it became clear Oli isn’t the best singer. Throughout a lot of these kinds of verses, he relied heavily on keyboard and percussionist Jordon Fish, who’s natural singing voice helped to carry Oli through these verses.
This transition in Oli’s voice, surprisingly, did work when they played some of their older songs throughout the night. Most noticeably was the oldest song on their set-list ‘Chelsea Smile’, dating back to their Suicide Silence album of 2008 – a definitively death-core album. Due to the numerous operations Oli has had on his vocal chords, he simply cannot replicate those harrowing screams throughout a full death-core track, and so had to adapt. The mix of spoken lyrics and timed screams worked a treat within the layers of masterful metal guitar (provided by Lee Malia) and thunderous drums (provided by Matt Nicholls), making for a reborn and revitalised version of one of their most popular live songs.
The aspect of their show that made this night particularly memorable was the power of their music. It was quite possibly the loudest set London has ever witnessed. Power songs such as ‘Can You Feel My Heart’ had every hair standing on end. Hearing 20,000 voices bellow ‘THIS IS SEMPITERNAL’ felt earth shattering. Even BMTH were knocked backwards by the sheer volume echoing around the dome.
Oli and co finished the night on their first single off of That’s The Spirit entitled ‘Drown’. Streamers and lights blitzed around the arena as hundreds crowd surfed over the pits just to try to high-five the band members. It was absolutely picturesque – even leaving Oli visibly chuffed at the sight of all these loyal fans trying to get close to him and his band.
Before BMTH embarked on this arena tour, there was one question asked of them: are they ready to headline festivals? After coming second on the bill on the main stage of Reading & Leeds in 2015 (only below metal royalty Metallica) and duly rising to the occasion, people were calling for them to be at the top of a festival bill. If selling out the O2 Arena twice in one tour twinned with the explosive performance they delivered this Bonfire night doesn’t land them a headline spot – who knows what will. Lord knows they are ready for it.