The first surprise of the night, for me at least, occurred as soon as I set my eyes on the venue... three hours before doors opened, there was already a massive queue stretching from the entrance of the 02 Academy and right around the side of it, reaching the space where the tour buses were parked. Duvets, take-away packages and extra pieces of clothing lined the pavement, making the surroundings look like a hobo's wet dream. From the off-set, the extremely dedicated crowd made it unequivocally clear that they were going to be the sort of audience members needed to make a gig extra special.
That being said, the audience needed to be put through their paces and be prepared for the hugely popular headliners, All Time Low, and what better way of psyching up the crowd than shoving a couple of support acts on stage?
I was surprised to say the least when I witnessed the outlines of We Are The In Crowd's members appear on stage first, politely holding up their hands in recognition of the welcoming crowd. I knew that they would be one of the support acts for the show, however, I would have bet that they wouldn't have been the opening act, the support for the support as it were. They have built up quite a dedicated following in the past year or so, with a modest fan-base exceeding 60,000 and a taste of success when their acoustic version of 'Never Be What You Want' exceeded 1 million views on youtube earlier this month.
Being one of my favourite bands, I know quite a bit about the band and the personalities that make it so appealing to new listeners. They have a quiet dedication to their music, their fans and each-other, something that is very admirable, especially when you consider the terrible state that the music industry is in just now, with diva's and spoiled brats reigning superior in the charts. In a way, I think that the audience, regardless of whether or not they knew anything about the band prior to the show, could feel their passion for music oozing out of every second of their upsettingly short set-list.
The band started off with the first single from their debut album, 'Best Intentions', the catchy and relatable 'Rumor Mill'. The first thing that I noticed was Mike Ferri's astounding energy. For a bassist, he was incredibly active, especially when you consider that he was feeling jet-lagged only twenty-four hours before this particular show. He jumped around during the choruses, swayed his head during the verses and even had the skills to play the bass behind his head. Despite the fact that bass players are almost always overlooked, Mike puts all of his bassists to shame, not only with his talent, but his stage presence, instantaneously becoming one of the most noticeable people on the stage.
Obviously, the two main people that were attracting the most attention were beautiful lead-singer Tay Jardine and handsome singer/guitarist Jordan Eckes. I love Jordan, he seems like a genuinely lovely and talented guy, therefore I have only one issue with his performance, that being the fact that he could not move around as freely as I would have liked. However, this is understandable seen as he had to stand in one spot due to him playing guitar whilst singing at the same time, forcing him to stand in front of a microphone stand for the majority of the song and only getting a respite from his assigned spot when Tay took over from him. If this is the only complaint about We Are The In Crowd's performance though, I would say that they were a successful support act, and I couldn't be happier that they are finally having a UK headlining tour in April this year. They deserve it.
The Maine got a much bigger reaction from the rowdy crowd than We Are The In Crowd got, and despite my opinion being biased to say the least, I honestly believe that the latter were the better band on the night. The Maine took to the stage with the sexual anthem 'Inside of You'. Front-man John O'Callaghan, although a talented singer, wasn't connecting with the crowd as much as he probably should have, leaving the energetic performances to bassist Garrett Nickelsen and drummer Pat Kirch, with Nickelsen not standing still for a single second during their ten song set. O'Callaghan appeared to be facing the back wall more than the audience, something that turned out to be quite annoying. That being said however, he did warm up to the crowd and by the catchy 'Into Your Arms', the initial cold attitude was long forgotten and O'Callaghan's musical talent was the only thing that any could think about. Guitarist Jared Monaco sadly maintained a stiff attitude throughout the Maine's set, refusing to move from his assigned spot on stage. Once again, it's Monaco's sheer musical talent that saved him from dragging down the rest of the band down, because it genuinely is a joy to see him play.
If only it looked as if he was enjoying playing for us...
Prior to the gig, I was told that I was in for a great night. I've been to a fair number of gigs now, the vast majority of them I have enjoyed immensely, so I was sceptical about just how good All Time Low were going to be...
I was wrong to doubt that they would be anything short of amazing.
From the second the band took to the stage (and the prominently female audience screamed the ears off of everyone) it was obvious that these guys were the rightful head-liners. If nothing else signified it, the lighting sure as hell did. The entire venue was lit up with warming red lights, illuminating all four members of the headlining act as if they were some kind of musical Gods. All of a sudden, they began jumping, running around stage manically and hitting the drums viciously, as if their lives depended on this performance. It's an energy that you've got to commend them for, whether or not you respect their musical capabilities.
Jack Barakat is a fantastic guitarist, I need to make that point crystal clear. The energy he puts into his performance is unprecedented, it's almost impossible to get a clear photo of him because he is forever running across the stage, climbing on top of amps or bending down to collect one of the many (and I mean many) bras that the fan-girls have thrown at him. There was hardly a song that went by that Jack and his bromantic partner Alex Gaskarth weren't chatting away amiably to the crowd. Both Alex and Jack would insert a random swear word half-way into every second sentence, but none of the audience members seemed to mind it, on the contrary, they almost applauded every f-bomb the boys landed. They took time out from their 16 song set to explain a three lettered light board that hung above the stage, which is controlled by someone to the side of the stage. Alex explained (between girlish screams) that he wanted to "tap dat ass" (in regards to the entire audience), before getting the sold out crowd to chant the phrase whilst the band played the intro for 'Six Feet Under The Stars'.
Alex was everything that you could ever hope for in a front-man. He was charming, oozed confidence from every pore of his body, was handsome, cared about the fans who parted with their hard-earned money to be at the show and most of all, was a talented performer. He played guitar and sang without compromising the quality for either one (who said men can't multitask?) whilst simultaneously interacting the crowd with the bands performance, pushing them to sing louder, jump higher and mosh more violently. At one point, he brought what was almost the entire venue to its knees... literally. Bar a select few stick in the muds (not to call them out, but the people in front of me) everyone sat down and were willing to sit crossed legged on the 02 Academy's floor, watching Alex's emotional acoustic performance of 'Remembering Sunday'.
Despite bassist Zack Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson not being able to stir that emotional response with their performances, it doesn't mean that they were any less important to the overall success of the night. You could tell that both Rian and Zack gave it their all, and that they were having a great time performing in front of the enthusiastic crowd. The fan-girls may focus entirely on Alex and Jack, but Zack and Rian are just as important to the bands success, and just as dedicated. I think we all need to appreciate that.
If you have a chance to see All Time Low perform live... take it. I assure you, you won't regret it. Their energy is unparalleled, their audience interaction is fantastic and they always have amazing support bands backing them up, every date of the tour.
Whether you are a casual listener or a hard-core fan, this is one date you do not want to miss.