It’s nights like these that everyone wishes Underworld had a better layout. No matter how much shuffling you’re prepared to do, most of the 500 lucky attendees tonight would only be seeing Issues through small gaps between people in front.
A venue upgrade ‘due to phenomenal demand’ would have probably been for the best, but tonight we were going to have to make do with an absolutely packed-out sold out Underworld show. If you’re familiar with the venue, you’ll know what that means. Lots of sweat, and a condensed crowd full of condensation that you can feel (and smell) before even getting to the main space. Just before Issues came on, a few more brave souls squeezed their way down to the sardine can floor space. I’ve often wondered what became of them.
But above all, tonight meant that 500 lucky fans were going to get to spend an hour or so with everyone’s favourite RnB metal band. Opening with ‘Here’s to You’, the lack of personal space was soon forgotten.
‘Never Lose Your Flames’ is a song that’s hard to listen to in your room without getting emotional, but the passion and heart that Tyler Carter puts into singing it live is something else. Those three minutes were enough to make the most stone-cold of people soften up. I saw tears from one guy stood near me (it could have been sweat), and I’m willing to bet that there were many more teary-eyed people in the room; I may or may not have been one of them, but I will not confirm, nor deny.
During ‘Stingray Affliction’, the crowd came through with attitude, screaming the words, and for a few minutes, everyone was Tyler Carter. Following was another crowd favourite in the form of ‘COMA’, and I started to wonder how the people down in the floor space were faring. Smiling through it all, no matter how uncomfortable the conditions, the crowd stayed blissful.
Carter took a moment to mention how grateful the band are for fans sticking around even though they took so long to release a new album and “all the shit we put you through” – possibly a reference to the departure of former screamer Michael Bohn.
Contrary to what some might have expected, Bohn’s absence wasn’t felt on older songs. Guitarist AJ Rebollo did a stellar job of filling in most of his vocals, and as for the rest – who knew Tyler Carter could scream? The faces of adoration amongst the crowd were proof enough that it was all worth the wait. The reaction to the most ‘out there’ track on the new album, ‘Flexin’, solidified the notion that Issues will always keep their fans, no matter how long it takes to make an album and no matter what direction they take their sound.
Issues’ biggest appeal has perhaps always been the way they pair the heaviest music with boyband-esque vocals. ‘The Realest’ saw a hilarious, yet oddly fitting sassy impromptu two-step dance routine from the band, minus drummer Josh Manuel – of course, all headed by Carter: a man that personifies sunshine itself.
‘Slow Me Down’ was the last song before they headed off stage, and a stellar example of Carter’s pitch-perfect vocals that had been on display all evening. Bright phone lights filled the crowd, twinkling and swaying. There aren’t many moments as beautiful in life as ones like these.
Once the band had exited the stage, a chant of “Issues” had filled the venue, and soon, the band were back on stage for a perfect encore of classics ‘Hooligans’ and ‘Mad at Myself’ – songs that for me, at least, were unexpected, but I was not alone in being joyous at the fact that they’ve not yet been retired from live sets – absolute carnage ensued in the pit.
Issues are a special band in so many ways. There aren’t many that carry such wholesome energy while packing such a punch musically. They’re a spark that shimmers beautifully and burns bright. They’ll always be worth the wait, and even more importantly, they’ll always be a band that means something to people, just as it’s clear their fans mean something to them.