Live Reviews

Twin Atlantic: O2 Academy, Birmingham – 03/11/12

This was the third time this year I have seen Twin Atlantic. Prior to this year I’d never been fussed with them in all honesty, then I caught their gig back in April at the Wulfrun Hall and took an instant liking to their performance and charm. At T in The Park this year however, I was left a bit deflated. I don’t think their sound carried across from the mainstage well and there was a lack of atmosphere. Tonight I thought I’d approach the gig with an open mind.

First up were Americans, playing their debut UK dates; Dead Sara. I knew I was in for a good night. They blew me away, so much I went and got their album the very next day. Frontwoman Emily Armstrong is a delight to watch. Her performance reminded me of watching early Verve performances and there were echoes of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant too. Switching between frantic guitar playing to prowling around the stage, reaching out to the audience and screaming in their faces. It was a joy to behold. Guitarist Siouxie Melody was the rock godess she appears in her mind. Pulling all kinds of shapes and bending the strings beyond the fretboard, she made the instrument sing. The rhythm section of Sean Friday and Chris Null seemed happy to step aside and let the girls entertain whilst holding the songs together nicely. A strong drumming arm and pounding bass complimented the action at the front of the stage. Songs like “Test On My Patience”, “Lemon Scent” and “We Are What You Say” really grabbed the audience’s attention. I don’t think they were expecting the heightened “in-yer-face” ballsy rock n roll we got. Closing track ‘Weatherman” was my personal highlight. Armstrong had relaxed into a stride, jacket was off and hair was down. As soon as the song got going she was all over the stage, giving a stunning vocal performance and even jumping off speaker stacks. An epic climax to a criminally short set. Definitely worth checking out next time they hit the UK!

So how do you follow that explosion? Well you draft in a big name like Charlie Simpson to come and cool the temperature down a bit with some folky pop. There were some chantings from the crowd as the stage was set up for the former Busted & Fightstar frontman. As the lights faded, the screams became deafening. Last to arrive on stage, Charlie gave a little grin and picked up the guitar. The band then preceeded to launch into “Suburbs”. I have to be honest, I thought the sound was a bit mixed up throughout the first half. Charlie kept looking at the sound engineer side of stage as if to ask “what’s happening?”, but maybe my ears were still blown from Dead Sara’s set. As I moved towards the back of the venue though the sound suddenly became more audiable. “Thorns”, “Cemetary” and “I Need A Friend Tonight” were played out with passion and it was nice to watch someone sing who feels what they’re singing about. You can tell he has a connection to the words he writes and believes in them himself. A rare treat to see someone act this way. The audience joined in on pretty much every song, singing every word perfectly. “Farmer & His Gun” was probably the loudest sing-a-long of the night during Charlie’s set which led into a really nice semi-acoustic version of “Riverbanks” to close on. I started by not really enjoying his set to actually feeling won over. Not bad going if you ask me!

So the stage clears and the audience are in fine voice, singing along to everything on the PA ahead of Twin Atlantic. My gut is telling me that after a couple of decent support acts, tonight should be a good show. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” comes over the syatem and the crowd are going wild. Only a few realise this is the intro song for the band. As it fades out, so do the lights. The band stride on stage smiles beaming and instantly launch into “Time For You To Stand Up”. Mixing vocals with rock n roll posing and pointing towards the crowd, frontman Sam McTrusty is in fine playful form. Barry McKenna on lead guitar is also bounding around his area of the stage, full of smiles and obvious delight at playing. Again the rhythm section of Ross McNae and Craig Kneale pull the tracks together and really drive them. Kneale’s drumming in particular tonight is thunderous. Watching his was like watching someone play the last gig of their lives.

“Apocalyptic Renegade”, “Lightspeed” and “The Ghost of Eddie” launch the set with dynamic velocity. The audience are really up for it and are already turning this into a very special gig. Interaction from the band is quite minimal for the first half. By the time of “Human After All”, I am listening intently but not watching as I am beginning to notice traces of early Pumpkins in their performance style, the sounds coming from them are very ‘Mellon Collie”, yet as I look up, they’ve transformed into an almost Green Day type act. Running to the edges of the stage, enticing the audience to clap along whilst talking over a drum and bass rhythm with muted guitars. Comparisons to Blink-182 have been made in the past and I can see this too, but to me they’re more Green Day.

Fame has obviously encouraged them to up their game. We are treated to a brand new song tonight, the catchy “Brothers & Sisters”. McTrusty informs us that they’ve been working on new material and debuts this one for us. It seems to have moved to a more jangly sounding guitar part compared to the rest of the set, the chorus still retains that urgency that we’ve come to know from the Scottish lads. “Edit Me” and the tender “Wonder Sleeps Here” build up the set nicely. Nothing sounds out of place or forced, the performance is faultless, sound is spot on and the audience are loving it. We are treated to a bside tonight, the frought “Sparkly Touch” seems to split the audience in half with the sheer velocity it’s played at. It signals for me, the start of the final section of pure high-octane rompous pop n’ roll. “We Want Better, Man”, “A Guidance From Colour” and “Free” closed the main set. They left with the crowd begging for more.

After a few minutes Sam McTrusty walked back out alone with just an acoustic guitar. After a few words, he launches into a cover of The Beatles’ “All My Loving”. I think this was the only part I didn’t get. I’m all for a cover, this I don’t think was all that good. His voice didn’t suit and the melody was changed. Maybe it was just this rendition, I’m not sure, but it just didn’t sit right with me. As the song ended, guitarist Barry McKenna walked out clutching an electric cello. He took a seat and both him and McTrusty began a simple stripped back version of “Crash Land”. I really enjoyed this. The solo was played out on the cello and as it ended McNae and Kneale has rejoined that band and the brought the song back up to a slow burning ending. Absolutely magical. The electrics came back out and the band literally took off. Launching into “Yes, I Was Drunk” the Academy seemed to take off. As the song faded out McTrusty took to the mic. He preceeded to inform us that over the years, whenever they’ve played Birmingham something has disasterously gone wrong; guitars have snapped, people have fallen over and injured themselves… this led to it being known as the “Birmingham Curse”. Tonight, nothing had gone wrong, so effectively the curse is now broken. The final song was dedicated to everyone in the room and the band sign off with an energetic version of “Make A Beast Of Myself”. The band and audience singing in unison and elevating the Academy to feel like an arena, yet so intimate. I was right to trust my gut. Something magical did happen tonight. I’m glad I hung around.


Editor & Photographer. Eclectic music tastes and fan of a good beat. Can usually be found at a Gig across the Country or at a Festival in the Summer - More than likely with a camera surgically attached to me.