GOJIRA / ROLO TOMASSI / DEAD LABEL - Brixton Academy, London 30.06.19
PHOTO CREDITS: REBECCA BUSH
It is a close, muggy Sunday evening in Brixton and the queue outside the iconic Academy venue stretches as far along the street as the eye can see GOJIRA are in town and their fans have come out in force.
Inside the venue there is barely a whisper of air and no discernible drop off in temperature from outside, this is going to be a sweaty one folks. As opening act DEAD LABEL take to the stage, the sold-out venue is already at least three quarters full. The band seemed completely unfazed by the surroundings and launch into a set full of blistering mosh-friendly tunes. Frontman Dan O’Grady whips the crowd up and the band feed off their energy, after originally seeming rooted to their spots, by the end of the set they are much more kinetic.
The music is visceral, bass heavy and punishing and the crowd clearly love every minute. They close with ‘Pure Chaos’ and the singer does his best to get the crowd to emulate the title by making them divide down the middle of the venue and slam into each other as the riff kicks in. The eager crowd however have other ideas, crashing into each other well before plectrums connect with strings. If the support act’s job is to warm up the crowd for the acts to come, then DEAD LABEL have passed with flying colours.
Dead Label are:
Dan O' Grady: Bass/Vocals
Danny Hall: Guitar
Claire Percival: Drums
Next up is ROLO TOMASSI, who have received a fair amount of hype since the release of the acclaimed ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ album. And within seconds of opening song ‘Rituals’ you can see why, frontwoman Eva Spence unleashes a primal scream of a vocal and launches herself around the stage like a possessed ballerina. It is a mesmeric performance, and one that reflects the band’s music; equal parts sheer fury and spasmodic lunacy punctured occasionally by moments of calm tenderness.
There is little in the way of audience participation until about four songs in, and when it comes it strangely seems to break the fourth wall somewhat, like a click of the fingers at the end of hypnosis. But as they crash back into ‘The Hollow Hour’ the spell is cast again, the blending of moments of brutality and moments of beauty driven by the majestic keyboards of James Spence create a complex yet still breathtakingly extreme performance.
It is perhaps less mosh pit friendly than DEAD LABEL’S visceral assault, and the crowd response - while still strong - is a touch more considered, ROLO TOMASSI’s approach can be as bewildering as it is brilliant, but as they reach their epic, grandiose finale you can’t help but realise that they grabbed your attention at the very first note and didn’t let go until they leave the stage.
Rolo Tomassi are:
Eva Spence – Vocals
James Spence – Vocals / Synthesizer
Chris Crayford – Guitar
Nathan Fairweather – Bass
Al Pott – Drums
There is a palpable buzz in the room as the crowd wait for GOJIRA to take the stage. And they are certainly made to wait, it is a long gap between sets but one that only heightens the anticipation. When the band do walk on it is to a rapturous response, whilst behind them strange, trippy images are projected onto a big screen, blinding lights flash and as the band crash into ‘Oroborus’ it’s clear that they haven’t skimped on production at all. Second song ‘Backbone’ highlights this, introduced as it is by flames shooting a good 10 feet in the air. They also produce a wall if heat through the already hot venue and most likely singe the eyebrows of anyone in the front row. But for all the spectacular pyrotechnics and visual aids it is GOJIRA’s music that is the true showstopper. Crushingly heavy but still elegantly beautiful, on record the songs are nigh on perfect, live they achieve something even greater than that. The whole experience is almost transcendental.
The crowd don’t just sing back the words, they chant along to the music with an almost religious fervour. From their death metal beginnings, the band have grown beyond all reasonable expectation into true headliner status and without compromise to the heaviness or force of their sound. Tonight is a triumphant showcase of how far you can come just by virtue of being really bloody good at what you do.
The band themselves remain humble, almost surprised that they are playing a venue the size of Brixton. “We’ve come a long way to be here tonight...all the way from the 90s,” they joke before launching into early live favourite ‘Love’. And it is a testament to their songwriting ability that their early stuff stands up so well to their seminal latter material.
GOJIRA have always had a reputation for phenomenal live performances and they don’t disappoint here, the projections, the fire, billowing smoke and even the confetti bomb are all wonderful additions but you could strip them all out and this would still be a killer show, the band are energetic and engaging, making use of the entirety of large, otherwise empty stage, they leap from the drum riser, which is truthfully more of a wall between the band and the lighting rig behind them and they encourage and occasionally gently goad the crowd into an ever-increasing state of excitement. At some points you wonder if the security barrier is going to be able to withstand the crush, and if it does, can the security team cope with the deluge of bodies surfing over the top?
Great song follows great song, the band experimental but not overindulgent - they even manage to chuck in a drum solo that doesn’t have people racing to the bar - the furious riffing blends with imperious musicianship as the band take you on a weird and wonderful journey that is as likely to induce neck breaking head banging as it is chin stroking wonderment.
Towards the end it feels like every song is building to an explosive climax, and yet they keep adding more and more. Frontman Joe Duplantier apologises for the lack of light show due to someone spilling a beer on the lighting desk, but you wonder how much more they could have added to this show and when they finally finish with a glorious rendition of ‘The Gift of Guilt’ you’re still left gasping for more. It is incredible that they’ve come this far and you sense they’re not done yet, as the band themselves say, each time they’ve played London the size of venue has doubled. “Next time...Wembley” they laugh as they leave the stage. And you know what? They really could do it, and they’d absolutely smash it too. Because quite frankly GOJIRA are the best thing to come out of France since Brie.
Joe Duplantier - Guitar, Vocals
Mario Duplantier - Drums
Christian Andreu - Guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – Bass
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