While She Sleeps/Cancer Bats
@ The Forum, London
30th April 2015
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Michelle Murphy
Co-headline tours always feel like a way for venues/promoters/labels (delete as needed) to hedge their bets – getting two bands that they don’t quite believe have the solo power to shift enough tickets for everyone to afford a sandwich at the end, to team up and hopefully collectively pull in the people.
That description doesn’t seem to ring so true though in the case of Cancer Bats and While She Sleeps. Sheffield metalcore five-aside team While She Sleeps are only on their second full-length album, but seem to have mopped up plenty of support, hype and accolades. Meanwhile Canada’s Cancer Bats have been in this game for ten years and five records, and have proved themselves many times more. Co-headlining just got more interesting…
And earlier. Doors are cranked open when work’s still letting out for most, and given many gig-goers aversion to turning up early, Oathbreaker (2/5) aren’t playing to the masses.
Not that they’ve probably noticed as it’s just all hair everywhere. Caro Tanghe’s vocal scrapings saw across relentless drums and look-inside-yourself melodies, before moving into creepy little girl mode.
Gods this isn’t made for tonight’s crowd. There’s a theatricality you need to buy into and Oathbreaker just aren’t selling it right.
By contrast Hundredth (3/5) are just-add-water hardcore – all energy – jumping, racing from side to side, pogoing, offloading guitars towards the ceiling. There’s talk of that and this track being off their second record; two albums though and we’ve never heard of them.
Good thing… bad thing… or maybe just because they’re like a hundred other hardcore groupings (suddenly that name seems kind of apt). It’s not about not being bad, it’s about not being fucking great, not fanning any fires – they don’t even warm the front rows early on.
Finally Chadwick Glenn Johnson vaults into the photo pit and a knot of fans (apparently hiding in plain sight the whole time) surge forwards to scream along. Or maybe they’re just making it up.
Extracting a few more nodding heads and limbs through pure persistence, Johnson signs off by leaping into the crowd proper and musters a decent enough circle pit for his trouble.
Oddly this is the first time ever we’re told we can be upstairs only and it’s weird. We feel like a spectator almost, not a participator. We’ve never been a spectator before, aside those gigs that are seats only. For us it’s about being in the crowd, equally connected to band and fan, sharing stupid sweaty grins and cutting loose.
Sitting up high we’re like a Roman emperor waiting to point thumbs up and down to decide fates and it sucks. Perhaps that’s why we don’t get paid for this gig.
Above or below though Cancer Bats (4/5) are bloody brilliant. They’re a band that’s always able to step outside of venue and setting and just deliver – from big capacity spaces to back-room bar to festival stage.
You feel you could shove them on stage at the Royal Albert hall and they wouldn’t change a thing.
The stage has been opened up somewhat allowing Liam Cormier to bound and prance back and forth like a lithe ball in a fast-paced game of Pong. He pauses just long enough to reflect on the fact that the UK have made Cancer Bats bigger than they are in their own country.
That, and to scream the band’s name as though there are some here that don’t know it. Well they do now.
Buffeting Cormier from either side are Scott Middleton and Jaye Schwarzer who worry riffs from their strings. Newbies ‘Satellites’ and ‘True Zero’ mix in well with current classics ‘Hail Destroyer’ and ‘Rats’, whilst ‘Road Sick’ seems to come from an ever more real place; a quick insight into the strains of long days of touring. Not that Cancer Bats seem to be suffering much from that tonight.
Their grins are reflected on hundreds of faces, every drop they give is returned two-fold in the banging of heads, the raising of fists, the t-shirts proudly worn.
As the opening notes of the Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ start up the crowd unfurls like a sail, straining under the expectation of what’s to come.
Then it loosens and breaks and the pit is immense, with folks pouring in from every side, and you can’t help but question why Cancer Bats are only co-headliners. Because that was a show closing move.
Cancer Bats setlist
Trust No One
Lucifer’s Rocking Chair
Arsenic In The Year Of The Snake
Cursed With A Conscience
Bricks & Mortar
Scared To Death
Sabotage (Beastie Boys Cover)
We know While She Sleeps (4/5) are closing tonight because they have smoke and fire jets. And a light show. All the rock n roll hallmarks and it’s unnecessary, doesn’t fit. These are hard grafting boys from Sheffield, not US darlings.
The shiny extras aren’t needed yet. Half the crowd may have left with the Bats but those who remain are a different type of fan base, tightly knotted, charged with mass excitement.
It’s that early kind of ferocious love that takes hold when you discover new music to connect to, that you for some reason fiercely take to your heart – the kind of love that makes folk weep with hysterics, although thankfully there are no tears here tonight.
All these kids wants to do is see While She Sleeps play. Forget the rest.
Still a creepy band name though. Mirroring latest record Brainwashed is a neat trick to ease people in, giving them new material ( ‘The Divide’, ‘New World Torture’ and ‘Brainwashed’) in the order they’re most familiar with, rather than at random.
‘This Is The Six’ riles things up further and on the face of it While She Sleeps are seeing an easy win tonight. Granted they’ve been putting in the hours in small spots up and down the country for some time and it shows. Still though, those stage effects show up the places where they’re lacking, rather than adding to the show.
Even the band seem somewhat uncomfortable with it all. What tonight needed to be about was the music alone.
Things pick up with a quick one song guest spot for Cancer Bats’ Liam Cormier and While She Sleeps’ own Lawrence Taylor takes things into his own hand, entering the pits with a megaphone which elicits a huge response.
‘Four Walls’ finishes things off in a mass singalong and you can almost see the connections that will keep taking While She Sleeps higher being reinforced, with others being newly forged.
While She Sleeps are on the cusp of crossing over into the mainstream and if that happens they might not be playing venues like this for much longer. Or being billed as co-headliners. Tonight though as much of the crowd were here for Cancer Bats as the young guns, perhaps more even.
Billing and hype only matter so far, it’s what you bring when you’re on stage that counts, and tonight both bands claimed the title of headliner with relative ease.
While She Sleeps setlist
New World Torture
This Is The Six
Life in Tension
Dead Behind The Eyes
Our Courage, Our Cancer
We Are Alive At Night
Trophies Of Violence