On Friday night Fireball’s winter party The Fuelling the Fire Tour took Bristol by storm. With a line up including Flogging Molly, The Bronx and Face To Face and the pricing of a much smaller show this formula is hard to beat. The only negative being the incredibly early start (before 6pm), O2 academies have club nights to organise so shows have to start and finish early which is not ideal for people who have to travel or work.

With the early start sadly VH favourites the Run Up who were sure to have wowed the crowd with their impassioned melodic punk rock. The same issue meant Fireball’s hottest band in the world Glasgow pop punks Lost In Stereo who are famed for their energetic live performances and singalong choruses. It also meant that Face To Face, a seminal band and have probably inspired all the bands on the bill were playing their final notes as I walked in to the venue. Judging by the rapturous applause they had just cemented their seminal status with an incredible live set or at the very least had ended on a very good song.

As The Bronx took the stage all disappointment was forgotten and for a solid three quarters of an hour they dominated the entirety of proceedings. The audience were completely entranced by the intensity coming from the stage, this is a band who could and probably should headline every show they play. The stage craft on show is sublime and as the set list rips through songs from five critically acclaimed albums there is a sense of legacy to this set list. Every song belongs and the themes both musical and lyrical flow into the next song within an expertly considered list, this is not a normal live act The Bronx take everything further and do everything better.

With the crowd eating out of his palm and obeying every demand Matt leaves the stage to disappear into the middle of a circle pit that stretches across the entire floor of a venue that is taller than it is wide, occasionally a limb or his head comes up for air but for a couple of songs he is amongst the crowd never missing a note despite the enthusiasm of the pit. Back on the stage the real magic happens, with an audience that don’t think this could get any better The Bronx find old songs and an even higher gear. The final two songs involve sing/shout-a longs  almost loud enough to overpower the musicianship which builds an intense feedback soaked wall of sound. For their final trick this intense wall of sound builds to the point of toppling and then with almost no warning it is laid completely to waste with the final chorus. The band leave the stage and the room feels like Fireball Whiskey tastes; hot.

After this Flogging Molly had a hard task staying at the same level, this is an uneven challenge as the two bands are nothing alike. Despite the drop in general intensity Flogging Molly held the audience’s attention and filled the room with an audience dancing and singing along. Their punk drinking songs and Irish influence are the perfect combination for a Friday evening and I can only imagine the scenes if there was time for the audience to fit in a few more pints of Guinness. Within a few songs this set begins to take on a St Patrick’s day or Christmas Market feel and despite not playing Christmas songs the room is full of festive cheer.

This tour may have posed logistic challenges but it is hard to complain about a line up full of household names (in the right household) for such an affordable ticket price. Fingers crossed for a later start next year, at VH we hate missing bands!

Photos: Helen Messenger Photography from the Oxford date of the tour