It’s 7pm when the doors open for the Prides show at Liverpool’s O2 Academy 2, and a surprisingly small amount of people trudge up the stairs to the venues 2nd largest performance space. One thing I find slightly ….. is the number people who turn up just for the headline act’s set, not paying any attention to those bands supporting, potentially missing out on some great music. Never could that be more true that tonight’s support bands.
First up are Vynce, a local Liverpool band who have clear influences from such bands as Foals, The 1975 with a hint of Two Door Cinema Club thrown in there. To their own merit however, they’ve developed a style that is characteristic of them even with the influences mentioned. A sensational rendition of The Weekend‘s ‘Can’t feel My Face’ mid-set gives the audience something they know but with a Vynce twist, making a thoroughly head-bobable tune. After a bit of self promotion comes their standout track “Lust” kicks into gear with instantly locking muted guitar hooks venturing into the dreamy reverb drowned chorus which ordinarily I’d object to but they make it work expertly. The harmonies shared between frontman Peter Pegasiou and lead guitarist Alex Kelsey, are absolutely flawless throughout taunting at the thought that there could be backing vocals on the faint backing track. A solid set from what I can say with certainty is one of the hottest bands coming from the Liverpool music scene.
There’s always a very strong connection between Scottish bands taking each other on tour almost as if their family, and this is evident with the next band up. Alternative-indie-rockers Fatherson take to the stage with a brand new song “Always”, due to be their next single released very soon, bringing their dreamy energetic rock (if such a thing can exist) to the slowly growing crowd anticipating the Prides set. After a slight lineup shuffle earlier this year, the (now again) 4-piece make the most of the slightly depleted stage they have to work with due to the Prides lighting rig behind them, and bassist Marc Strain bouncing between the backline and front of stage clearly loving having the decent number of people who know Fatherson songs singing the words back to them.
Old favourite “Hometown” gives us something more familiar with the rich harmonies in the middle 8 and Strain not even needing a mic to throw the refraining words over the noise of the rest of the band. Scottish passion for their country is something they’re never short of especially when using it as inspiration for music and never is it more true than in this tune right now. After the release of their debut album “I Am An Island” in 2014 and venturing out on tour with Enter Shikari earlier this year, frontman Ross Leighton announces “Its bl**dy great to be back in Liverpool!” met with the odd “Woo!” from the front row of hardcore “Fathersoners” for want of a better word. Its always refreshing to hear a band who like to switch up some of their songs from what we hear on an album and Fatherson have done that brilliantly this evening with subtle yet experimental adjustments to rhythm and song structure giving little lifts to “Lights” taken from their debut album.
It wouldn’t be a Fatherson set, without hearing their barnstorming performance of “I Like Not Knowing”. Having been lucky enough to catch them on their headline tour last October in Leeds, this is definitely a standout track from the Kilmarnock quartet smashing into the euphoric chorus, with credit due to the lighting designer at this point creating an uplifting atmosphere before the lads leave the stage to growing feedback as they down their guitars and leave it to the guitar tech to stop them. A well and truly warmed up (and now almost full) Liverpool crowd wait in anticipation of headliners Prides return to the Merseyside.
After what seems like an age for the stage to be stripped, reshuffled, moved around, and any other varieties on that sort of thing for only 2 keyboards and a drum kit, the stage darkens as the numerous movings head positioned onstage spray prismed beams across the venue. Eventually, drummer Lewis Gardiner emerges making extensive use of his Roland sample pad to break into their first song “It’s Not Gonna Change”. Although clearly from their Scottish origins, and singing with what seems like a Glaswegian, which would make sense with them being from Glasgow, frontman Stuart Brock speaks with an almost English voice to my surprise. There’s no messing around with these guys as after a short introduction with the now full venue before breaking into the mellow “Let It Go”. Just before the song starts, Brock announces that a friend of theirs once describes their album as an “album for music to dancing to with broken hearts” met with an “awww” from a few dotted around.
For a band with only 3 members, consisting of 2 keyboards, a guitar, and a kit, their live sound is remarkably huge, although its probably due to the excessive amount of synths they have on a backing track, the acoustic instruments actually sound really good. Sometimes tending to get drowned out by the excessive synths, guitarist Callum Wiseman expertly makes his way all over his fretboard with improvised solos in instrumental breaks added a bit of colour to what can be a stiff performance when so dependent on backing tracks.
Credit also must go to the lighting designer for Prides who must have taken hours and hours of programming to put together a show that is so visually interesting. It does have to be said though that with so little light on the actual band, as opposed to coming from behind them, that they were silhouetted for most of the set which is a shame but if the light show presented was pretty spectacular. “Just Say It” is a personal highlight with its feel good and thoroughly hand-flappable vibe and melodic muted guitar lines. The rich harmonies in this track also come across very well in a live setting, however on occasions some of the set wouldn’t be out of place at the end of a mediocre Channel 4 teen drama programme.
I’m always unsure how I feel about a band leaving a stage only then to return for an encore lulling the audience into a feeling that the show is over, and for some this has clearly got through to them as a few people actually start leaving, but that’s the danger you risk. Luckily Prides triumphantly return for a 3-part encore end with none other than the sensational “Messiah” possibly their most famous track, excluding “Out Of The Blue” known to many FIFA 15 fans. With the more aggressive sounding synths and heavily compressed drum sounds, the crowd once again begins dancing, with Brock venturing down into the pit to meet the front row of the crowd. It’s hard not to enjoy this song with such a euphoric chorus and easy to sing along to lyrics.
It’s been a while since Prides have been to Liverpool but they’ve left their mark this evening so I’m sure no one will be upset if they don’t come back another year.