Headlining Brixton Academy is a major accomplishment for any band, especially one as relatively young as Twin Atlantic. The last time we saw the Glasgow four-piece play a headline show in London was at the Camden Roundhouse last year, and they played a mesmerising show to a full house. But the Brixton Academy is twice the size of that venue and we arrive tonight to find the room half-full, which begs the question of whether or not Twin Atlantic are ready to take up the mantle and become the huge headline act they’re clearly striving to be. Still, the night is young.
First on stage is Cambridge alternative rock outfit Lonely The Brave (7), whose impressive debut release The Day’s War has been garnering positive reviews across the board, and hearing those songs in the live setting it’s easy to see why. It’s no small feat cramming such soaring and cinematic arrangements into such a short space of time, especially when you’re first on the bill and the room is still filling up, but the band do a decent job of getting the night off to a first-rate start. The songs sound powerful and poignant, and the audience embrace them with open arms. The same cannot be said for the next act.
Eliza and the Bear (5) are certainly more of an indie pop band than anything resembling a rock band, and their inclusion on tonight’s bill is an indication of the pop crossover appeal of Twin Atlantic. We don’t want to write them off for not being ‘rock’ enough, and they’re not a bad band as such, but the truth is sandwiched in between two such original and compelling sets of songs, their music just sounds formulaic and lightweight. They’d undoubtedly go down a storm supporting acts like The Vaccines and Mumford & Sons, but Twin Atlantic fans expect a little more depth and sincerity and the sea of passive faces during their unremarkable collection of songs proves they just can’t cut it in front of tonight’s crowd.
If you’re going to walk on stage after two of the most bombastic songs in recorded music (Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and The Dawn Of Man from 2001: A Space Odyssey) you’d better come out and play like your life depended on it, and the epic sing alongs that accompany Twin Atlantic’s set opener – the anthemic Make A Beast Of Myself – set the tone for their set. By now Brixton’s O2 Academy has filled up nicely, and although the venue is far from full the impassioned response from the crowds to the next few songs (Hold On, Apocalyptic Renegade and Fall Into The Party) make up for the lack of numbers.
We can’t help but feel like the band’s sophomore record Free still resonates more with the fans than their latest effort Great Divide however, save for the emotive Brothers & Sisters and the show stopping Heart & Soul, which the band shrewdly save for the end. Songs like Yes, I Was Drunk and the title track of the aforementioned second album hit home much harder than tracks like Oceans and the slightly juvenile I Am Animal, during which singer Sam McTrusty pulls out the old ‘Everyone in the crowd sit down, then jump up when I say so’ trick, which quite frankly doesn’t suit the band or their music.
Understandably, Twin Atlantic are still finding their feet as a headline act in these types of settings, and the use of novelty theatrics are obviously sincere attempts at putting on a memorable show. And we’re not saying that rock music shouldn’t be fun; unleashing giant balloons at the end of the set clearly puts a smile of everyone’s face, and it’s a lovely touch to end the night. But Twin Atlantic have made a name for themselves as accomplished musicians and serious songwriters. Their music really speaks to people, and they mustn’t lose touch of this. The songs are strong enough, and the love people have for the band is real enough that they needn’t rush their ascension to the upper echelons – their time will come soon enough.
Musically speaking, tonight’s set was flawless. But from a performance point of view, the band didn’t quite hit the mark. A solid show indeed, but not the celebrated occasion it could’ve been had they waited that little while longer.
Gallery: Twin Atlantic, live at London’s Brixton Academy. May 7, 2015 Photos: Alison Clarke
**Gallery: Lonely The Brave, live at London’s Brixton Academy. May 7, 2015 **Photos: Alison Clarke