Absence makes the heart grow fonder may be an oft-used phrase but it’s certainly one that is applicable to Fightstar’s return. Tonight they play a sold-out Kentish Town Forum, a venue far bigger than the rooms they were filling back in 2010. Before people can really start celebrating 10 years of Charlie Simpson binning a pop music career, there are some rather lacklustre supports to sit through…
Take The Seven (3) frontman Dan Molloy manages to subsequently come across as both smug and uncomfortable, looking like a man desperately trying to be a star but missing the mark by quite a distance. Their ‘wall of love’ – a less violent version of a wall of death, where strangers slowly walk towards each other and cuddle – may be one of the lamest things to ever happen at a rock show. More Dangerous Animal (4) fare somewhat better having a bit more grit to their sound. The band, fronted by Charlie’s brother Will, ultimately don’t have any moments riotous enough, or hooks big enough to make this little more than middle of the road rock though. It fails to connect with the audience proving there is only one Simpson brother they’re interested in tonight.
When Charlie and his Fightstar (6) bandmates do take to the stage, the reaction is one of sheer pandemonium. Launching into a superb rendition of Paint Your Target, it’s greeted with a huge sing-a-long and a whole lot of bouncing around. This sterling opener is not indicative of the whole set though, and the performance goes onto be a far cry from a triumphant return show many would expect. The set is patchy throughout and some back-to-stage teething problems are glaringly obvious – at one point, the band had to leave the stage for a few minutes after encountering some technical difficulties. A number of their songs haven’t aged too well either, We Apologise For Nothing and The English Way don’t live up to their anthemic memories, and War Machine in particular feels like a tedious plod through the motions.
There are some saving graces. Death Car was always one of the heavier moments in their arsenal and it sounds crushing tonight. I Am The Message is an uplifting affair, while Palahniuk’s Laughter remains a raw post-hardcore anthem. It’s ultimately the fans that keep this gig afloat. The crowd have clearly been binging on the back catalogue and are punch-drunk on nostalgia. With news that the band may be working on new material, it’s ultimately this that will decide the future of Fightstar and whether they can remain in venues of this size. Trips down memory lane will only go so far.