Before Real Friends even took to the stage, the crowd were an unruly bunch. Fidgety and impatient while the crew did the last bits of setting the stage, there was already pushing and shoving coming from the younger fans. Whether the impoliteness of a large portion of the crowd could be excused by passion and excitement to see their favourite band, I’m not sure.
What seemingly couldn’t come soon enough for people here tonight, Real Friends came on stage to deafening screams (was I at a One Direction concert?), and I’m almost sure the crowd-surfing had begun before the first note of ‘Get By’ was even played.
By second song in, ‘Summer’, the venue security were visibly struggling to keep up with the volume of crowd-surfers. There’s always a level of well-intentioned mania down at the front of any gig, but tonight was something else. People were actually getting injured.
Crowd-surfing, mosh pits, and general wild behaviour from people having a good time is a given, and part of the beauty of live music. But tonight was different – just aggressive pushing and shoving while fighting for personal space and to get closer to the front.
Maybe this is just how it is for this ‘new generation’ of pop punk (I witnessed a girl in the crowd Shazam-ing a Paramore song between bands because she didn’t know what it was and boy did I feel old). There was, however, a day when people could crowd-surf until their hearts were content and go absolutely wild for a band they loved while still respecting others and not intentionally causing any harm. Before I start to get all “back in my day,” I’ll move on.
Two-thirds of the way through the set, it felt as if something had changed. The crowd – like a troublesome toddler who had spent all day being destructive and finally crashed out – had calmed down. The band themselves had seemingly done the opposite, and classic ‘Floorboards’ is where the set really seemed to pick up on their side. Frontman Dan Lambton had been gradually breaking open his shell throughout the show, and by the time he’d hopped off the stage for ‘Late Nights in My Car’, he seemed fully exposed.
“We’re going to slow it down with another older song,” he informed before the lullaby guitars of ‘Sixteen’ were played out. Emotional and profoundly moving, this was a stand-out moment. Lambton’s voice was slightly cracking as he sang the sombre lyrics, and there he was, laid bare, singing a song that clearly means so much to him – and to those singing along with him in the crowd.
Another slow, emotional track, in the form of ‘I’ve Given up on You’ followed, and phone torches filled the crowd. Lambton stopped singing to hear the crowd sing, “It’s been a lonely year.” “I may as well let you finish it,” he said, breaking from his vocal duties for the rest of the song, preferring to hear a chorus of 1,500 people sing the words of his own song to him. I can’t say I blame him.
This last portion of the set had been laid-back and chilled, but now it was time for everyone to come alive again for ‘Me First’ – although in a much friendlier way than the start of the set. It was as if the slower songs were a lullaby to lull the crowd into a more wholesome way of having fun, while still going absolutely crazy to closing track ‘From the Outside’.
A set dominated by songs from latest album Composure was to be expected, but the absence of anything other than ‘Mess’ from The Home Inside My Head was definitely felt. However, the golden oldies from earlier releases were, without doubt, welcome additions to the set and ample compensation for the more recent classics that were missing.
Regardless of songs played or chaos in the crowd, the one thing really worth noting about Real Friends is that they’re phenomenal at playing their songs live. Pure and simple. They give their all, as do their fans. That’s what it’s all about.