Tipped to be the pop-punk tour of the year, Roam and With Confidence were making their second stop on their 15-date UK and Europe co-headline tour tonight at London’s O2 Islington Academy.
Kicking off proceedings tonight were Australian three-piece The Dead Love. Playing a seven-song set of self-proclaimed ‘shitty grunge’, they perfectly served their purpose in warming the crowd up just right. Their gritty but melodic sound – straight out of prom night from a cheesy American movie – was the perfect start to a four-band bill. A bit like dipping your toe in the pool before you plunge straight in.
Although visibly not well-known amongst the crowd, there were sways and head-bops throughout the half-filled – but receptive – venue. The gig’s early bird attendees seemed to be buying what they were selling, and The Dead Love will likely be heading home to Australia with some new fans.
A slightly more familiar support came in the form of Scottish pop-punk outfit Woes. Heading on stage to applause and never-faltering enthusiasm, their set was rambunctiously high-energy and all-round fun. Where The Dead Love had laid the groundwork, Woes had started to build upwards, raising the energy levels in the building ten-fold.
Wholesome pop-punk mixed with electronic elements was suited to the Saturday evening crowd. With a mention of it being a member of the band’s birthday, fans and potential fans alike gave all they could down in the crowd. Woes left the stage to as much applause as they’d come on with, and had suitably done their job of getting the crowd ready for the first of tonight’s headliners.
All the way from Australia, it’s been exactly 364 days since the last time With Confidence played a show in London. 364 days too long, judging by the screams emanating from the audience (primarily inhabited by young females).
Despite not releasing any new music since the last time they were on our shores, fans seemed to be just as eager to sing along to the classics they know and love. No awkward ‘I-almost-know-this-song-but-not-quite-yet’ singalongs from the crowd; just all-out screaming the words with all the energy they had. ‘Moving Boxes’ was a perfect start to get the crowd fired up, and there were smiling faces and arms flailing as far as the eye could see.
With Confidence are genuinely fantastic at what they do. Pitch-perfect vocals from both Jayden Seeley and Inigo Del Carmen paired with a band this together make you feel like you’re listening to them at home. But at home, you wouldn’t have the bright and beautiful atmosphere that comes as standard with a With Confidence set.
It’s hard to pin down precisely what it is that makes a With Confidence show so special, but I’d place my first bet on it being the way the lyrics are sung with such raw emotion. Anger, sadness, discontent – it all comes bellowing out of Seeley’s mouth. You can almost see it touching the crowd, taking them on a journey through the life events that made these songs happen.
Midway through the set was ‘Godzilla’ off of the band’s 2015 Distance EP. As enthusiastic as the crowd had been thus far, an enormous wave of excitement filled the space from floor to ceiling. Following straight after was an acoustic rendition of ‘Long Night’. Seemingly unsure of himself at first, by the middle of the song, Seeley was belting it out, the singing along from the crowd there to lift him up and give him the confidence he needed.
Further upping the love for them in the room, With Confidence followed with ‘London Lights’ – a crowd favourite adored all over the world, but especially here. The atmosphere by now was something you could feel warming up your insides, and it was more than apparent that no one here wanted this evening to end any time soon.
Third from last, the intro riff to ‘Here For Nothing’ started up and the crowd went wilder than they’d been so far tonight. Not a single person was still, and not a single person was silent. Although released as just a B-side to debut album Better Weather, it has proven to be one of the band’s most popular songs, and tonight proved that it should never be left out of a With Confidence setlist.
There had been an abundance of crowd surfers throughout this show, but none more than during ‘Icarus’. The passionate energy of the song was channelled through the crowd, and to the security’s dismay, scores of young women were being pulled over the barrier – many of whom went straight back around to do it all over again. Ending on ‘Voldemort’, I wondered if the crowd would have any energy left for Roam.
Sharing the top spot on the bill with the Aussie heavyweights just goes to show how far South Coast natives Roam have come recently. With third album Smile Wide having been released a few weeks ago, it was time they brought their new, darker sound to an audience.
Despite Smile Wide only being out for a few weeks, there was no doubt that every Roam fan in the room had spent a considerable amount of time listening to it; this was clear from the way they knew the words to every line of every new song. Opening with ‘I Don’t Think I Live There Anymore’ (possibly the catchiest song to be released this year), the crowd put any worries aside that they’d spent all their energy during With Confidence.
The band kept a nice mix of songs in the set. Not forgetting Great Heights & Nosedives, ‘Alive’ and ‘Flatline’ did their job of making the crowd even more impossibly hyped for what was to come. One thing I’ll say for Roam fans is that they’re dedicated. The band were clearly feeding off what their fans were dishing out, and despite already being here for hours, not a body in the room was still.
Before playing infectiously catchy ‘Toy Box’, the band mentioned that Disney might sue them for all the Toy Story references in the song, but that they don’t have any money. But give them a few more years of doing as well as they were tonight, and I’m sure Disney will have something to take from them eventually.
Emotionally charged ‘Turn’ showed a new, more mature side of the band that is sure to elevate them to greater heights than they’ve seen thus far in their careers. Those few minutes felt like more than just a pop-punk show played by a band in their early 20s – this was Brixton Academy material.
‘Piranha’ was predictably a high point in the set; the singing from the crowd seemed almost as loud as the band playing. Visibly stunned by the reaction to the song, Roam were ready to end on a high note. Taking it back to 2013, the band ended on ‘Head Rush’ from their debut EP, Head Down.
The chants for one more song were not ignored, and although probably pre-planned, Roam were back on stage for classic ‘Playing Fiction’. From the start of this set, it had been hard to imagine an ending more elevated than the previous songs, but now it was clear that Roam fans aren’t only capable of giving 100%. I’m no maths genius or analyst, but this energy was somewhere around the 170% mark.
With co-headline shows, both bands are meant to be on a level playing field, but it’s always a big guess as to who will actually draw the most fans. Tonight though really was a perfect sharing of fans. Both bands are so truly deserving of that headliner title. With this being only the second show of a substantial run, this 2-for-1 deal doesn’t expire for a while – experience it while you can.
Photos by Dani Willgress – Instagram @daniwillgress – Check out the full photo gallery here.