Clad in spray-on jeans, shredded gloves and something that looked for all the world like a bedsheet, Ariel Bloomer is a pint-sized powerhouse as she screeches and raps her way through Icon For Hire’s  set.
Cynics And Critics is a fully-charged opener, but exposes their schtick straight away – this is a band whose lyrics hang on the regularly recycled clichés of messed-up teens, disillusionment with the world and a general feeling of being pissed off with ‘The Man’. Bloomer rips off her bedsheet mid-set and makes up for their hackneyed poetry with her impressive speed-rapping skills, which are put to good use on an unexpected cover of Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us. Closing track Rock And Roll Thugs is the tale of Bloomer’s parents burying her rock CDs in the backyard, only for her to dig them up again, but instead of defiant rebellion, it elicits little more than a cringe.
Tonight wasn’t meant to be about taking things seriously, though. Hollywood Undead  bounce onto the stage in day-glo masks, looking like a bunch of overgrown teens intent on fucking shit up. Their mix of metal, rap and electronica owes a great deal to their predecessors Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, and they’re unashamedly balls-deep in the frat-boy-meets-skater-thug culture pioneered by Fred Durst – vocalist and guitarist J-Dog is even sporting a hoodie with ‘cocaine and caviar’ emblazoned across the back. Previous interviews suggest that they’re not quite the overindulging party boys they present, though – former member Deuce was, according to a dialogue with a US website, sacked for being the kind of diva who wanted to bring his personal assistant on tour. As the set goes on, it becomes increasingly obvious that the persona is partly pantomime.
Opening with Undead, they immediately demonstrate why they’ve amassed such a following across the pond; their gang vocals are some of the tightest around. Each track is formulaic in terms of length and structure – clean vocals, thrash chorus, repeat – but they flit between melody and storming riffs with a speed and expertise that proves they’re technically gifted as musicians. Dead Bite gives Charlie Scene the chance to show off his falsetto, while City pays homage in its hook to another big influence – Coolio. The masks are off by around the fifth song, and it’s the signal to up the cheese factor. California, an ode to being rich and getting buzzed in – you’ve guessed it – California, calls for a lot of on-stage posturing that might be more at home at a strongman contest.
Humour underpins a lot of what Hollywood Undead do. Before launching into acoustic ditty Bullet, which sounds disconcertingly similar to something Jason Mraz did (bar its dark lyrics on suicide) Charlie Scene quips “I’m Johnny Cash!” to a ripple of approving laughter. It’s in sharp contrast to We Are – the emotionally-driven anthem from their third album, which is one of the set’s standouts alongside Been To Hell and Young. Predictably, they end with the Coolio-sampling Hear Me Now, but it’s worth remembering that we probably wouldn’t have Hollywood Undead without Coolio, and a rock scene without them would be missing seven consummate showmen.
Hollywood Undead Setlist
Undead Tendencies Been To Hell Dead Bite Kill Everyone City California Lion From The Ground Comin’ In Hot Up In Smoke Bullet Day Of The Dead Another Way Out Young We Are Everywhere I Go Hear Me Now