Without doubt November is the most packed month for gigs this autumn with a number of events on my radar as this duo of acts was doing the rounds throughout the UK. Having seen the New Zealanders tear up Sheffield on their last jaunt over here I was eager to see how they would approach this gig however first there was the matter of UK hard rockers The Fallen State. It would be fair to say that they had brought a hefty contingent of stalwart fans with them that had camped out in front of the stage ready for them. It never ceases to amaze me that at every single gig I go to there seems to be a totally different crowd every time – there seems to be no crossover, people don’t seem to listen to different genres or maybe they just didn’t attend this gig.
With billowing smoke flowing from the stage an intro piece was heard that encouraged the audience to increase their adrenaline ready for the band who arrived one by one like grenades of activity. With hair swirling the singer Ben Stenning bounced around as though on springs, his energy was colossal and remained that way for the entire set cavorting around the stage pulling off numerous poses as the band rocketed into “Hope For Revival”. Initially the amount of smoke made it very difficult to see the stage from my vantage point and if you’ve ever been to the Rebellion Bar, it’s not a large venue so you’ll know the amount of smoke must have been like dense fog. The bands high energy vibrant rock was infectious as the crowd absorbed every hook and beat and joined in on virtually every chorus such was their familiarity with the bands material.
“Lost Cause” followed and that energy continued to barrage the audience, as the backing vocals were a little lost due to the power of the guitars unfortunately but had some rectification as the set progressed. At times the bands performance did come across as the Ben Stenning show such was his unerring charisma especially when he took to hanging upside down from a beam during “Sinner”. Musically comparative to Soundgarden at times the band’s array of riffs was formidable “Sons Of Avarice” had an acoustic piece at the start which worked extremely well before unleashing a new track, “Torn”, on the crowd which had a huge bass line and double kick rhythm that I found particularly enjoyable given my death metal affections. I have never liked ballads but the audience did and during “Nova” the crowd sang every lyric, I think there was only my shooter and I that didn’t know the lyrics. Maintaining the momentum it allowed the bands set to finale with “You Want It” and an obligatory audience participation sing back session coupled to making them crouch down then jump up which was totally unnecessary and pointless, but a minor point in a set fuelled by gas guzzling riffs, gritty vocals and a pounding rhythm section.
As I said earlier I saw Devilskin on their previous tour and was eager to see what they would do on this new tour especially as there was no new material unless you had been watching fan filmed YouTube videos as a sneak preview. With an eerie intro playing the band walked straight past me to the stage and launched into “Pray”. Immediately it was apparent that Jennie’s vocals were nowhere near loud enough but this was quickly rectified. As ever her stage persona was immense as she smoothly moved from clean vocals to deeper tones, and one thing I admire about her is that when it is time for the guitarists to their thing she steps back and gives them the space to do so. “Elvis Presley Circle Pit” hastily followed as the power intensified despite the track slowing down a tad, you could even say the track had a slight death metal quality due to its density as the set powered into “Limbs” retaining the mid-tempo tunes for the time being. Both guitarists looked like Scott Ian lookalikes or maybe Kerry King, although I am perhaps only say that because I went to the Slayer show later that week. Jennie announced a new song titled “All Fall Down” succinctly keeping chat to a minimum preferring to talk through the music as the song had a sleazy riff before relenting to a gentle beat and emotive vocal delivery.
Grabbing a beer I missed part of “Mountains” but returned for the very popular “Start A Revolution” which looked to be favourite with the band too as they utilised every centimetre of stage. Capitalising on that fervour they dedicated “Animal” to the ladies just at the moment when the stage right screen fell over for some reason – I blame the power of the guitar which must have blown it over. We were supposed to know the riff to the next track which most did I reckon, and was “Barracuda”, an gargantuan track in the band set list it created a punctuated point for Jennie to bring things down a tad and talk about the next song being about a friend that had committed suicide, and I think for many of us we may know or know of someone affected by that, I have, as “Never See The Light” was aired with its upbeat aura and energised groove.
We were asked to raise our cups or glasses for “Vessel” which is one of the bands coolest songs and so infectious as a sing back was encouraged of hell yeah, fuck yeah, etc. The song hit the gas pedal during the final section of the set as both guitarists shredded their way through the song and at times when you have such a formidable front woman you can forget that the guys are pivotal to the bands performance as Paul (bass), Nail (guitar) and Nic (drums) delivered powerfully and energetically throughout the entire set. With a few songs left the band continued to hurl out riffing grenades with “Until You Bleed” bursting with energy and barraging the crowd. Jennie introduced the next song ‘Endo” by explaining it was about her recent surgery for with endometriosis. The track clearly means a hell of a lot to her as she bounced around the stage dementedly. My shooters favourite song, “Voices” was the last of the main set but contrasted hugely with preceding the song.
As the band momentarily disappeared from the stage one of the guitarists quipped about Manchester not being a victim to political correctness and being called Personchester or even Womanchester I think he also said to much sniggering as their show concluded with the cracking hit “Little Pills” and I like everyone else loved this song and their whole performance. Hopefully a new album is in the pipeline and surely bigger things await this extremely talented New Zealand rock act.
WORDS: MARTIN HARRIS
PHOTOS: ANDY POUNTNEY