Sunday, 18 May 2008

Live Review: All Time Low - May 17th 2008

One quick glance over the ever growing queue of fans outside, and it’s obvious that tonight, is to be the start of something special, very special. There’s a bustle on Dale End unlike any other, and as the city’s pop-punk lovers descend on the venue, dressed in their finest summer clothes despite the chilly May weather, and threat of a downpour at any second, it’s clear to see that these kids came for a party, and judging by the buzz that fills the entire street as the doors finally squeak open, later than planned, the party is more than coming for them.

It’s a strange occurrence to see such a small crowd make such a big ruckus, but, as the white drapes hang across the balcony, labelling the larger Academy downstairs off limits, anyone could tell you that, when kids have waited this long to see their favourite Maryland quartet, no amount of burly security, or lack of a real stage is going to keep them quiet, and it’s a feeling that once noticed, begins to fill the audience, defrosting them a little as their tummies flutter in anticipation.

All Time Low are a weird bunch, a playful collective of four friends, tight since High School, finally embarking on a UK headline tour of their own, and unlike so many bands before them, actually live the lyrics they sing, bringing their friends on tour, despite the obvious that, due to their status back in their home country, they could have brought one of a number of more successful Blink 182-esque bands along for the ride. It’s clear from this point that, although most would see them simply as a little slice of fun, All Time Low put more into every aspect of their musical career than they’re given credit for. The result, is that Broadway Calls, a three piece hailing from Oregon, go down a treat. The crowd know few if any of the opening acts songs, but that deters no-one from pumping their fists in time with the beat, and jumping along to the catchy hooks and clever melodies, and after a handful of songs, the band exit the tiny stage, grins plastered across their faces, content that a crowd of teenagers from middle England would warm to them so well.

Next up are the ever catchy Cobra Starship, most memorable on these shores for a single named Bring It, purely because it featured in the inescapable blockbuster Snakes On A Plane, however, older members of the audience light up at the presence of Gabe Saporta, lead singer of said outfit, but in the eyes of aging punk rock fans, a god of his game, having fronted Midtown for a good number of years. You begin to feel that those fans are most likely here only to see their hero in the flesh, and hey, considering Cobra are co-headlining, there is nothing the matter with that, but it’s the fresh faces of the youngsters in the crowd that really show how amazing Gabe and his posse play tonight, as, one by one, feet begin to tap, hips begin to sway, and in a matter of minutes the entire crowd are putty, dancing as though they always knew the words, smiling as if tonight is a dream come true. It’s a strange sort of evening for those of us who weren’t Midtown fans many moons ago, as entering the Academy, you wonder why a band you’ve barely heard of are joining forces with one of the hottest tipped bands on the scene, but give Gabe five minutes, and he’ll give you proof, that despite less obvious adoration from Birmingham’s kids, he is every inch the captivating rock star.

With a witty one liner implying that teenagers here are the most fun they’ve encountered, ‘The UK is where the party’s at, you got underage girls drinking, y’all getting naked, it’s like it’s the end of the world, and it’s fuckin’ amazing. I’m saying, if it’s the end of the world, Cobra Starship are providing the party tunes’ and one final chance to dance, the band thank the crowd and politely exit, and it shows that, whether it’s his crazy attempts at fashion, or his lack of 20:20 vision, Saporta certainly didn’t need his huge black rimmed glasses to see that tonight, things are in their favour, tonight, the crowd questioned whether they were good enough, and they stepped up, proving their place on a sell out bill.

By the time All Time Low grace the stage, pandemonium has hit a new high, and as their ever classy backdrop reading like a how to of childish toilet humour based insults falls, all those present seem to switch, a light sparked on somewhere, that, their four favourite men are about to take a hold, and after the amount of fun had during the other two acts, they’d better pull out all the stops to keep the party going that little longer. Opening with the classic Six Feet Under The Stars, Alex is the first to show why they have such a cult following, one that is threatening to spill out into the UK’s mainstream and make them an overnight sensation at any moment, commanding his army of followers to sing along, as guitarist Jack Barakat embarks on a whirlwind love affair with his six string, throwing himself about the stage, centimetres from the sticky hands of the crowd.

Next up is the ever beautiful The Beach, a song which contains a line so prevalent, it stuns the crowd a little at first, before leaving no pair of eyes truanting from the stage, and it’s a gorgeous moment when you realise that, just one line has evoked such a response from a group of teenagers that came here intent only on dancing their Saturday night away. It’s the defining moment of the show, without a shadow of a doubt, as a four hundred strong audience feel the beat pumping in their chests grow a little stronger at the realisation that this is our summer, that tonight, we are the only kids that matter, and that, the lifestyle of such bands, the lifestyle that ninety percent of the crowd crave however secretly is possible. It’s most certainly not often you see so many bright faces sing so loud, especially not for any other reason than because the words are of their favourite band, but tonight, it’s more than obvious that the chorus echoing back at the stage is being sung, not because they love the band, although they ultimately do, but because they really feel it.

Ripping into a handful more songs such as Let It Roll, Poppin’ Champagne and the notorious cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella, before which a familiar voice squawks ‘Who wants to see my boobies?’ as Barakat pulls up his shirt, reminding Alex that such a song is far too sexy for a crowd with so many clothes on, consequently commanding everyone to get naked. It’s a statement that one too many fans take seriously, and as they stomp through a well rocked version of an R’n’B gem, layers land left, right and centre of the boys, exciting them a little too much. During such a fun moment, it’s easy to see why so many assume All Time Low go no further than the talented yet childish partnership of Gaskarth and Barakat, but such assumptions are greatly mistaken, as tonight shows that they’re a unit, a band of four brothers, that work best when together, the shy and slightly retiring characters of bassist Zach Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson balancing perfectly the effervescent sparkle of the more outspoken two, the yin to a off centre yang.

The band scorch through another fan favourite The Party Scene, before announcing the next would be their last, and taking a moment filled with friendly smiles and whispers about loose strings and the like, the opening chords of Dear Maria fill the small hall, quite easily the best received song of the night. The volume of the words being sung back towards the speakers takes even the experienced ears of the band aback for a second, before encouraging the crowd to sing even louder, and as the elongated final notes of the song play out, the band grin and exit the stage to deafening applause. A few minutes later, and a round of "we want more" accompanied by chants of "All Time Low" lure the band back onstage, and picking up their instruments once more they slam their way through Jasey Rae yet another golden oldie, before calling out a face we’d grown fond of earlier in the evening, fresh from a very good nap backstage. It’s at this point that All Time Low take a step back from their slightly unpolished but undeniable rock star status and indulge us all in a small story from their days playing tiny venues back in the states where, in Gabe’s words, "You guys rocked so hard you shut down the lights" amid a series of giggles from the slightly tired faces onstage "My band had to play acoustic after that". The sparkle in Gaskarth’s eye as he recalls is something really quite adorable, proving us right, that for all their success, constant touring, sell out shows and the dozens of fans that encompassed the band as they popped out before their set, they really are still ordinary boys, forever loyal to their own heroes, and ever so thankful to their fans for allowing them to live their dream. A cover of Midtown’s Became What You Hate sets the finale to the night perfectly, as there isn’t a single body left still by the end, crowd surfers flying through the air faster than the security can cope with, and with a content grin, Alex runs a hand though his damp hair and informs the crowd that the band will be over at the merch stand in a little while, and that he wants the fans to come and hang out.

It’s an act that seals the deal, perfects what could only have been a night that’ll go down in history as one of the most intimate yet spell binding shows the Academy 2 has ever seen. All Time Low may not have world domination just yet, but if tonight’s show is anything to go on, it’s only a matter of time before they’re everywhere, and one thing is for certain, they more than deserve to be. As tired legs clamber their way out of the now sweaty venue, a feeling of triumph hangs in the air, because as with many a great pop punk band, there’s a sense of rebellion, of naughtiness, and of knowing that you should know better, a sense that as the last few bodies exit in search of the McDonalds just up the street, is stronger than ever. The band, are one of only a handful around today that can evoke such freedom from their fans, and as many a youngster climbs into the waiting car of a parent, and even more loiter the surrounding area, sweaty, bruised and more than a little torn up, you can’t help but feel that there’s going to be a riot between teenagers and parents tonight, a riot, that will only end in parents forbidding such activities with All Time Low again, and in children loving the band more than ever. After the show, I’d be willing to bet it’s a scene the band are all too aware of, and a fight they’re all too ready for, and judging from the permanent smiles seen gracing faces of youth on the streets of Birmingham tonight, I’d say it’s All Time Low - 1, Parents - 0.

by Leah Murray

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