GIG REVIEW: Papa Roach, Ho99o9 & Dead! Live at O2 Academy Brixton, London
Nu-metal has to put up with a lot of crap these days, doesn’t it? The sneering, snide underbelly of the metal community lambast it for both it’s success and demise, whilst the likes of metalcore, emo and djent exchange relieved glances as if to say “We’re still getting away with it!” They may still be getting away with murder for their evasion of criticism, but that’s the furthest thing from the mind at the O2 Academy, Brixton, as this was a night for celebration. One of the most resilient and adaptable acts from nu-metal had come to town and were there to offer an aural assault of rock and fun. Enter, Papa Roach.
Up first were London-based lads Dead! and, as opening acts go, you couldn’t have asked for a more reliable opener. Their bouncy, uptempo brand of rock made for a delightful start to the evening, with strong hooks and chunky riffing getting the blood ably pumping round the system. It certainly helps the crowd’s blood pressure to rise when the band has done the decent thing to raise theirs and play with a spring in the step. Dead! were anything but: full of life, bounding about the stage with a charming, youthful vigour that set the head nodding or the foot tapping (potentially both).
“Skin”, “The Golden Age Of Not Even Trying” and “You’re So Cheap” were all well-received by the slowly gathering masses, and served as further fuel for the band’s fire. It was nothing particularly complex, nor laden with nihilistic introspection. Just a blast of pure rock ‘n’ roll from a bunch of guys keen to have a riot on-stage doing what they love. Dead!fun and dependable.
Ho99o9 (noun “hor·ror \ ˈhȯr-ər”, 1. an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust; 2. an American hip hop group) follow with, simply-put, a rabid display of feral energy. Sporting an experimental and aggressive form of hip hop melded together with the cynical rage of hardcore punk, their set flew by in a flurry of limbs and urban hymns. Opener “Street Power” summed Ho99o9 up in a nutshell: processed samples, bile-soaked rhymes spat with the ferocity of a miffed woodland grizzly and enough bass to resonate the room’s collective bone structure.
Sadly, this is where the performance began to be hindered. Whilst it’s all fun and games feeling the vitals rattling around in the rib cage, it ruined what subtlety and impact tracks like “Street Power” would ordinarily carry. From vocals to samples, everything descended into an incoherent aural mud and meant that tracks segued into one another with little to distinguish track from track. The band’s lack of inter-song chatter, often a hindrance to flow, served the opposite on this occasion and contributed towards this unwanted coalescing of material.
There were some notable highlights, however. Ho99o9‘s energy on-stage was nothing short of inspiring, whilst theOGM’s torch light show impressed and Eaddy’s curtain call back-flip certainly raised a few eyebrows. But it was the group’s machine of a drummer, Brandon Pertzborn, who took gold for his performance. Utilizing a stripped-down kit and beating it to within an inch of its life with intricate cymbal work, thumping beats and double bass, the man could easily take the crown of Travis Barker for his power and prowess behind the kit.
But by the band’s own admission, they are not “everyone’s cup of tea”, and this was demonstrably reflected with the relatively muted response from a strong crowd. The group’s aggression and risk-taking nature (which had earned them the chance at supporting The Dillinger Escape Plan earlier in the year) should have been playing right into the hearts of the crowd, but there just didn’t seem to be anything that resonated with the audience (aside from their physical selves). Perhaps a case of right stuff; wrong crowd.
It’s something of a shame that nu-metal gets the rep that it does. What was once the most popular (and mainstream) form of metal music back in the 90s and early 00s, is now the butt of many a joke (much like Nickelback, Donald Trump, and notions of respect and decency in Hollywood). It’s somewhat disappointing, given the genre’s vast array of classic songs and celebrated bands, that all are tarred with the same brush. If one were to eschew the Neanderthalic mindset rife in metal – that these are songs to be mocked – and take on a more objective view, you’d fine that they are some stonewall bangers.
Which is why shows like this feature a myriad of metal fans, sporting shirts both appropriate to the headliners and other more extreme bands (Bal Sagoth, anyone?) For certain bands from this era, their continued success can often (erroneously) be attributed to novelty – fans love to knock tracks from the likes of KoRn and Limp Bizkit, but rest assured they’ll be the ones in full voice down in the pits. Which is testament to the songwriting, is it not? Yet where bands like Papa Roach are concerned, their perseverance, their sound self-awareness and their willingness to adapt that sound without playing to trends puts paid to the idea of novelty with aplomb.
Right from the opening attack of “Crooked Teeth”, the band breathe life into a room that was still in mild shock after the exploits of Ho99o9. The roar that greeted them was enough to temporarily drown the band out, and from there-on-in it’s a gigantic singalong. Seminal classics like the raucous “Between Angels & Insects”, the syrupy, emo-inflected “Scars” and the uplifting “Lifeline” whipped the crowd into a frenzied fever pitch that never let up. Quite how band and crowd could have so much energy for so long, moreover on a Tuesday (scientifically, the slowest day of the working week), is anyone’s guess.
Yet continue they did, with Jacoby Shaddix marshaling the crowd like a seasoned orchestral conductor (though one wonders whether the Philharmonic’s conductors have ever tried to instigate a Wall Of Death…) There’s even a few surprises sprung, with a ballistic blast of Blur’s classic “Song 2” given metallic makeover that incited plenty of crowd movement. The highlight, though, had to be when “Forever” segued into Linkin Park’s “In The End” in a touching tribute to the late Chester Bennington. There’s something rather poignant and ethereal about a room of people singing a song in tribute to someone that further cements music’s reputation to transcend everything to bring us all together… It’s a sentiment echoed by Shaddix, with the frontman imploring those suffering depression or any mental illness to reach out so they can be heard and be helped. Papa Roach can rock it, but they clearly displayed that they possess exceptionally sweet hearts.
It almost goes without saying that it would be the band’s signature, “Last Resort”, that would bring the house down. It’s another of those songs that, despite any dissuasion against nu-metal and what it stands for, you guarantee will have every line thunderously roared along to. Sandwiched between “Dead Cell” and “…To Be Loved”, it made for a fitting end to a fine set that hit all the right notes. From raucous nu-metal and party-inducing alternative metal to sweet, powerful, softer numbers, it struck a fine balance for many a Papa Roach fan; old or new.
Since Papa Roach have made such able use of rock and hip hop across their almost twenty-five-year career, the evening’s acts will have served as a commendable mixture of both. It can become tiresome very quickly if subject to the same thing across the evening, so the variety offered at the O2 Academy stood to reason. Dead!’s bright rock will have whet the appetite for the evening, yet it’s a shame that sound problems (the bass) and a relentless, albeit numbing setlist from Ho99o9 fumbled the proverbial baton. Luckily our headliners in Papa Roach and a baying crowd were enough to recover for a strong finish. All-in-all, the evening left several thousand fans beaming and singing into the night on the way home. Fun times were had.