Shortly after Of Mice & Men had taken the stage; before they’d even played a note, a simple, “Open this shit up” was uttered by vocalist Aaron Pauley. Underworld is a compact, underground venue where things always get sweaty, but this bank holiday evening – the hottest in August – things were about to get intense.
Opening with ‘Warzone’, the set was an impressive mix of songs from all five albums. “This is a singalong song”, Pauley warned before the guitar riff to ‘Would You Still Be There’ kicked in. Third song in and a clear front-runner in crowd enthusiasm, it set the pace for the rest of the evening’s proceedings. Pauly clearly agreed, thanking the crowd with a, “Y’all sound incredible.”
A slightly different vibe to a usual Underworld gig due to the presence of a barrier in front of the stage and the sweltering heat, the crowd gave it all they could, as did the band. An insane amount of head-banging from both sides of the barrier was accompanied by as many mosh pits as possible given the harsh temperature.
Slowing it down for a mid-set breather, ‘On the Inside’ was an appreciated change in pace. Guitarist Alan Ashby laid down on the stage for what looked like a few minute’s snooze during the outro of the song, and not one person in the room could blame him.
“It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes… Not you, just me”, Pauley joked after taking his top off. Of Mice & Men fans were dealt a harsh hand after the departure of frontman Austin Carlile due to health issues in 2016, but it feels as if charismatic bassist Pauley was destined to front a band of this stature. Filling in on bass so that Pauley could focus solely on vocals was Raad Soudani of Volumes – a well-fitting addition.
Although Cold World’s worth as an album has been highly debated, there was no doubting tonight that ‘-‘ and ‘pain’ are very welcome additions to an Of Mice & Men set. ‘You Make Me Sick’ was an ender of epic proportions, and seconds after the last note had been played, the chant for an encore had begun; the crowd more than willing to stick it out in the sweatbox for one more song.
“Did somebody say one more song?” Pauley asked. Yes, all 500 of those somebodies, and Of Mice & Men graced the stage once again for classic ‘The Depths’. The crowd sat down to jump up when it kicked in; without even being told to. This alone is a sure sign of the dedication these fans feel towards this band. A massive pit tore through the small floor space – surprising for the amount of time these people had spent packed like sardines into a record-breakingly hot can.
“We are Of Mice & Men. Let’s all go outside.” After an hour and 15 minutes in these hellish conditions, some fresh air was well-deserved for everyone.