Angels & Airwaves / Neon Trees

HMV Forum (Kentish Town), London on Friday 4 February 2011

photos of this show
"Angels and Airwares, never heard of them, but I'm free so lets do it anyway." And that's how it all begins for me. I decide not to listen to any of their stuff before the gig, (I like surprises), and I've got an ear infection. Possibly not the best combination but we'll see.

Support band Neon Trees sound familiar and I spend a little while trying to work out who they remind me of. Their upbeat melodic rock sounds are rounded off nicely by backing vocals from their lady drummer who sports a gold spangly top. Their lead singer struts, runs and slides up and down the stage and the laid back crowd warm from nonchalant head nodding to singing their hearts out.

I recognise 'Animals' from hearing it played loads on the radio and so it seems do many of the gathered masses. As they leave the stage, Neon Trees mohawked front man pays tribute to Angels and Airwaves and thanks them for allowing them to be part of their European tour. I'm impressed and finally I realise that 'The Cult' was the band that they remind me of.

Angels & Airwaves

Angels & Airwaves take to the stage to the sound of an intergalactic computer boot up sequence. It's all very big and prog-rock-esque. As the band themselves appear, I realise just how many people have rammed into the London Forum to see a band that I have never heard of. Soon it all becomes clear. This is a super group. Blink 182's Tom DeLonge on vocals and guitar. The incredible Atom Willard from Rocket from the Crypt on drums, Mat Wachter from 30 Seconds to Mars on Bass, and David Kennedy from Box Car Racer on guitar.

From the outset, much of the crowd seem people physically moved. This isn't the hardcore that Blink 182 plays. It's much bigger than that - it's epic! It's like they've all grown (not necessarily grown up). The focus isn't on driving guitar riffs, it's shifted to something much greater. Almost everything they play sounds anthemic and could be played as part of a crescendo in a film soundtrack.

Angels & Airwaves

The separate sounds from all instruments are all clear and crisp. The only criticism I have is that the vocals are low in the mix and not particularly clear. Still as this is the last date of a European tour, it could be put down to vocal fatigue. The crowd's enthusiastic singing more than makes up for what is missing from the mic - they all seem to be note and word perfect.

Moody backlit and LED lighting make the band appear as shadows and we're the subjects of their lighting. With phased flanged guitar effects and synth noises, the mood is often pretty sci-fi and spacey, but the real delight is the drumming. Willard thumps the tubs at an alarming rate. Often switching beats with off beats, his work rate is kept high throughout the set. At one point, he leaves the kit and joins DeLonge centre stage to play an electronic drum kit. The dancy beats coupled with rim shot effects and big bassy sounds are mesmerising. Not only that but he’s playing the maracas at the same time!

DeLonge enthuses about how great it is to be in London and how they don't have a record label. Their latest album was available free due to 'corporate underwriting'. They also have a film coming out in the near future.

Stand out tracks for me are:
'Everything's Magic' - The guitars remind me of U2 at their best.
'Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce' is an anthemic and haunting intro.
'Breathe' makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
'The War' for its 'balls out' rock feeling.
Finally 'Secret Crowds' for its delicate drumming and build up.

I leave wondering how I'd never heard of this lot before and I appear to have found a cure for infected ears. I guess this is Alternative Rock for those in need of a pigeon hole but honestly, I'd suggest taking a look at the set list and checking out some of their stuff on Youtube.

I look forward to more, and perhaps even a festival performance (though I suspect Blink 182 may mean that's not possible this summer). I'm off to download their back catalogue.

Set List:
Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce
It Hurts
Young London
Everything's Magic
The Adventure
The Flight of Apollo
The Moon-Atomic
Epic Holiday
Secret Crowds

The War

Angels & Airwaves

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article by: James Tayler

photos by: Andy Pitt

published: 07/02/2011 10:56