Fightstar Live at the O2 ABC
It’s been ten years since Fightstar released their debut EP They Liked You Better When You Were Dead. So to mark the occasion, they have embarked on a 5 date UK tour taking in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and 2 dates in London. The tour marks the end of a four year hiatus, and for the 900 or so Fightstar fans at the O2 ABC Glasgow on Tuesday night, they came back with a helluva bang.
Support was provided by Suffolk-based More Dangerous Animal. The band was formed last year when Will Simpson and James Plant (then of Brigade) decided that they wanted to get back to basics and create some powerful, aggressive rock music. The result was a collection of new songs which was described by their guitar tech as being ‘less fluffy bunny and more dangerous animal.’ So mission accomplished then it would seem – and their new band name was created into the bargain! The lineup is completed by Nathaniel Finbow, Alex Baker and Mark Fisher. MDA are heading into the studio soon to record their debut album, and if it contains any of the tracks they played here, it’s going to be well worth getting hold of.
When Fightstar exploded into Paint Your Target, the first thing that struck me was despite their hiatus, they seemed really tight and polished. Charlie Simpson (lead vocals, guitar), Alex Westaway (vocals,guitar), Dan Haigh (bass) and Omar Abidi (drums) sounded like they were coming off the back of a long tour, not playing their third gig into a run of five.
Tuesday’s setlist was basically a greatest hits kind of affair. All the good bits from their first three albums and that original EP were rolled out one after another with barely enough time to catch your breath between each song. Throughout the evening Fightstar switched effortlessly into different genres of rock. From the radio friendly alternative rock of The English Way to the outright shouty hardcore frenzy of Deathcar, Charlie and the guys skilfully intertwined delicate melodies with crushingly heavy guitar riffs and powerful vocals. The sound created by the band had an epic, stadium concert quality to it which, to my ears at least, doesn’t always come across as well on their recorded material. War Machine for example, was far better live than it was on 2009’s Be Human. Those of you who’ve listened to Fightstar over the years will know many of their songs follow the same quiet/loud structure that was pioneered by Led Zeppelin, which was then taken to another level by The Pixies and used most memorably by Nirvana. Although it was done to death by the end of the nineties, I’ve always liked songs in this style because when they are well crafted – and Fightstar’s certainly are – it adds drama and tension to a song.
As impressive as Charlie and Alex were in terms of their guitar playing and cracking vocals, it was the engine room of the band that impressed me most of all. Omar is known as being a very powerful drummer and I have to say he more than lived up to his reputation here. With Dan’s bass thrown into the mix, they drove the band on like the preverbal runaway train. Both of them got a well earned break late on while Charlie and Adam performed a stripped-back acoustic version of Amethyst. The audience were invited – and duly obliged – to provide the vocals and a good sing along was had by all. Pretty soon though – and much to the dismay of everyone in the audience – we reached the last song of the evening in Mono. It’s a cracking, slow burner of a song, which starts very quietly and then gradually builds over four minutes or so to a typically huge, thunderous finish.
Everyone has their own reasons why they decide to like a particular band or not. Generally if you don’t like someone it’s because you simply don’t like their music, and that’s fair enough. Sometimes though, you get bands such as Fightstar who have to contend with people deriding them for reasons outwith the music they produce. And that’s a shame because Fightstar really are EXTREMELY good.
So next up is a new album, a tour to follow and the band have just confirmed they’re playing Download