POP EVIL / THE FALLEN STATE / REWS - O2 Academy Islington, London 01.03.19



The O2 Academy Islington has been open since 2003, with the 800 capacity venue in bustling North London gaining a reputation for putting on emerging artists that are grabbing the attention of the public and music industry alike. Tonight’s headline act, US rock outfit POP EVIL are playing their penultimate show of a fortnight long European tour, throughout which they have been supported by Devon hard rockers THE FALLEN STATE. This evening they are also joined by London/Belfast alternative rock duo REWS, who get proceedings off to an early start due to tonight’s 10pm curfew.

REWS duo Shauna Tohill (vocals/guitar) and Collette Williams (drums/backing vocals) are energetic in their delivery from the start, performing a set mostly made up from songs from their debut album ‘Pyro’ (December 2017), beginning with ‘Rip Up My Heart’, then new song ‘Can You Feel it’. Shauna’s clear voice rings out and both girls are animated as they play, their performance is polished and sounds professional. Continuing their set with songs from ‘Pyro’, the duo’s upbeat and well-rounded execution captures the attention of the audience, who clap and cheer to show their appreciation. Collette’s deftly-produced beats and the duo’s engaging vocal harmonies blend seamlessly to keep the audience entertained. Highlights include ‘Miss You in the Dark’ and the extremely catchy ‘Shake Shake’, before the set ends with ‘Shine’.

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Judging by the amount of band t-shirts of the same name proudly on show, THE FALLEN STATE, comprising Ben Stenning (vocals), Jon Price (lead guitar), Dan Oke (rhythm guitar), Greg Butler (bass), and Rich Walker (drums) have more than a few fans in tonight.
From the moment the guys hit the stage and get their set off to a blistering start with new song ‘Torn’ (from their eagerly anticipated debut album ‘A Deadset Endeavour’ out 15th April, available to pre-order here: https://adeadsetendeavour.bigcartel.com/), it is immediately clear why they are so popular. This new song is melodic, undeniably catchy yet packed full of hard and heavy riffs and with a driving beat that doesn’t quit. Frontman Ben is a fireball of energy, his vocals powerful and raw as he commands the stage, using every available space as he headbangs; a whirlwind of hair and enthusiasm. As the set continues with ‘Sinner’ (from the ‘Crown Your Shadows’ EP) and ‘Lost Cause’ (from ‘III’) Rich pummelling away with abandon, sticks spinning in the air as Greg’s heavy bass resonates through the room. Ben tells us “It’s a fuckin’ privilege to be here tonight, thanks for being here so early to check us out! Thanks to POP EVIL, they’ve been amazing on this tour”. His easy way with the audience is endearing and the chemistry between the lads on stage is evident.

The evocative crowd favourite ‘Nova’ (from ‘The View From Ruin’) has the audience singing along from the off, Jon’s tender solo bringing the lyrics in Ben’s emotive vocal home as he takes the spotlight. Time for some crowd participation in the form of a sing-a-long competition to the chorus of ‘Burn it to the Ground’ (from ‘II’) involving splitting the crowd in half into Dan’s and Jon’s side (Jon’s won!). The audience that didn’t know how the song went before, certainly know it now! All too soon, it’s the end of their set and last song ‘You Want it’ (from ‘Crown Your Shadows’) is a belter. Jon’s hands are flying so fast they’re a blur and Dan’s throwing out gritty riffs with abandon. There’s a fun bit when Ben encourages us all to crouch down before jumping up again and “going fucking crazy!”. It’s an exceptionally tight, engaging performance worthy of a headline act. There are seemingly an abundance of great rock bands emerging currently but these guys are one of just a handful that really seem to have it all and each time I see them they just get more phenomenal. I really feel for POP EVIL following these guys onto the stage tonight!

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POP EVIL are undertaking a considerable tour schedule in the first few months of this year, tonight being one of three UK dates on their European stint, before the band head off to Australia and the US next month. The band released their fifth, eponymous album in February 2018, and this is the first time they have hit our shores to perform the tracks live. Leigh Kakaty (vocals), Davey Grahs and Nick Fuelling (guitars), Matt DiRito (bass), and Hayley Cramer (drums) take to the stage and launch into ‘Boss’s Daughter’, from 2011’s ‘War of Angels’, then ‘Colors Bleed’ from their last album. The audience at the front are loving it, there are heads banging and hands in the air at least six deep in the front of the room, which is around two-thirds full. Leigh tells us he’s just getting over laryngitis so we’re “Gonna have to sing a little louder and get rowdy!”. He does seem to be struggling a bit but is ably supported by the backing vocals of Davey, Nick and Matt, and of course the audience. 

As the set continues, we’re treated to tracks from every POP EVIL album, including ‘Last Man Standing’ (from ‘War of Angels’), ‘A Crime to Remember’ (from ‘Pop Evil’) and ‘Ways to Get High’ (from ‘Up’). Bassist Matt is captivating to watch, all hair flying everywhere as he plays, and Hayley is an absolute powerhouse as she strikes her drum kit with precision. ‘Be Legendary’ (from ‘Pop Evil’), ‘Footsteps’ and ‘Take it All’ (both from ‘Up’) and ‘100 in a 55’ (from ‘Lipstick on the Mirror’) follow, giving guitarists Davey and Nick a chance to shine. They’re an impressive pair as they flank Leigh and trade flowing riffs. The penultimate track is ‘Waking Lions’ (from ‘Pop Evil’) before the last song of the night, the band’s hit ‘Trenches’ (from 2013’s ‘Onyx’), for which Leigh is joined in a duet by Ben Stenning from THE FALLEN STATE. Leigh and Ben’s voices really complement each other well, their performance is stunning and it goes down a storm with the crowd! 

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