Lower Than Atlantis at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire live review

'A sweaty summer and some new converts await'

Photographer: Dominic MeasonChris Eustace on 01 May 2020

While all and sundry were proclaiming “guitar music” dead during the 'Great Indie Lull' a year or so ago, the fact their rockier, more community-oriented cousins were all starting to play to pretty large crowds was being overlooked.

The likes of You Me At Six, Bring Me The Horizon, Enter Shikari, Young Guns and Deaf Havana have ensured it hasn’t stayed that way, and Watford’s Lower Than Atlantis are the latest to be rewarded for relentless touring with a leap up into the big rooms. Already festival mainstays, and with latest album ‘Changing Tune’ making Number 25 late last year, it’s time for fans and friends to revel in their biggest show to date.

First off, Mike Foster brings us a short set of smiley acoustic campfire punk, getting in digs at Frank Turner (“In the interests of balance, I thought Million Dead were good”) and windmilling “hxcore” kids, all the while sounding a good bit like.. well, you know who.

Blitz Kids turn up shortly afterwards to pound in all the right places, with “oh-woah-oh” hooks and mid-song breakdowns on tap, as frontman Joe James bounds around the stage, stopping only to place a foot on the monitors and demand hands in the air.

However, there’s something missing – slick and energetic it may be, but the refusal to divert from the trad emo-ish rock blueprint and a lack of killer choruses means there’s not much to make them stand out from thousands of other bands with a similar schtick, and Shepherds Bush remains largely nonplussed, save for a jumpy ‘Perfect’ and the hilarious/endearing Bon Jovi key change at the end of ‘Warrior’. If they’ve an eye on that vacancy Lostprophets’ demise has created, they’ve still got work to do.

Aberdeen’s The Xcerts fare a lot better, ‘Shaking In The Water’ balancing its bite with a sugary pop chorus. There’s plenty of hooks to hang your hat on here, as a yelping ‘Kick It’ does just that. Reminiscent of a grungier version of compatriots Twin Atlantic, and indebted to Pixies’ quiet/REALLY loud dynamic, they make up for any obvious influences  with a real sense of fun and a bit of variety, with a more reflective ‘Carnival Time’ breaking things up, paving the way for gritty, fuzzed-up closer ‘Slackerpop’.

You’d mark them down as Ones To Watch, but having been a going concern since 2003 and two albums in, the band have doubtless grown cynical of tags like that. Having provided such a welcome shot in the arm to set us up for the main event though, let’s not rule out a Biffy-esque rise sometime in the future.

The Empire’s top two tiers may be closed off tonight, but there’s more than enough devotion on the packed-out floor as the white curtain that’s shrouding the stage lifts to reveal Lower Than Atlantis in a hail of lights. Rattling through ‘Love Someone Else’ and ‘High At Five’ to start, smoke bombs are going off as frontman Mike Duce leads the handclaps like an arena veteran.

“Do you know what to do when you hear a punk rock song?” the singer asks, then answers: “Run around like dickheads!”  That’s a nice suggestion, Mike, but everyone’s packed in a bit too tightly for that. A few give it a go, with most settling for pogoing and hollering along to ‘Marilyn’s Mansion’ instead.  It’s a nice touch too, for him to mention the day jobs LTA left behind before ‘Go On Strike’, for those that like a bit of a motivational speech with their mosh.

Perhaps the thought of how far the band have come is what brings the crowdsurfers out, or it might be the sheer hugeness of ‘If The World Was To End’, the drama ramped up to 11 this evening as drummer Eddy Thrower pounds out the rhythm whilst sat on a drum riser tall enough to give even Tommy Lee vertigo. ‘(Motor) Way Of Life’ brings even more into the melee, with its tales of touring grind gaining new significance in these plush surroundings.

So, with one eye on the festivals (and with LTA getting confirmed for Reading & Leeds again on the very evening of this show), have they got what it takes to grab the floating voters? Well, introducing the ‘Changing Tune’ songs to the fests should give them a shot of selling out a place like this next time round, provided enough people get to hear album highlight (and current single) ‘Something Better Came Along’, which tonight skips along as brightly as anything from ‘Bleed American’.

With the crowd getting showered in ticker tape at the song’s end, it’s clear that, for now, the band have only got their eye on celebrating with those already on board, with the whole venue belting out “We all make mistakes from time to time, unfortunately for me, being me was mine” along to ‘Another Sad Song’, before a pulsating ‘Beech Like The Tree’ (mischievously introduced as ‘Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter’), a bizarre half-cover of Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’ (“as if we’d leave you with that!”) before a crashing last slamdance  to ‘Deadliest Catch’. A sweaty summer and some new converts await.


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