Lower Than Atlantis / Young Guns / Hands Like Houses / Roam Hot

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Lower Than Atlantis / Young Guns / Hands Like Houses / Roam - Students' Union Great Hall, Cardiff (UK) - 18 March 2017

Who doesn't like a gig on a Saturday night? It's the weekend with no need to get up early the next day so it's more than fine to have a few drinks and let your hair down. If atmosphere was measurable then Saturday concerts score ten against the lowly Monday score of five. The fact that this concert featured four bands made for a quite stunning value for money package.

First up, Eastbourne Pop Punksters Roam. Signed to Hopeless Records and with one album to their name – 2016's 'Backbone' – they piqued the interest with their energetic brand of the genre. I always feel sorry for any opening bands, a short set played to a crowd who've only just got into the venue and are perhaps more interested in frequenting the bar. Indeed, many of the sell-out crowd still remained firmly queued along the street outside the venue, victims of an extremely slow and outmoded entrance policy that seems to be the scourge of small British venues; come on sort it out! Roam seemed un-phased and ploughed through their six song set with gusto. It's hard to pick out highlights from such a short set but pacey opener 'All The Same' and the heavy yet melodic 'Deadweight' provided the earworms necessary to warm up the ever swelling audience.

The higher up the bill you play, the more songs you get to perform and the name of the game is to fit as many of your songs into the allotted time. In other words, cut the chit-chat, drum solos and long interludes between songs and just get on with giving people what they want. That's exactly what Australia's Hands Like Houses did. It's no secret that 'Dissonants' was one of my favourite albums of 2016, it was chock full of aggressive, guitar-orientated Modern Rock songs and I was looking forward to hearing those tracks live. 'Dissonants' is the band's best album and clearly they think so too as every one of the six tracks performed was lifted from that album. With clarity, excellent musicianship and some outstanding live singing from Trenton Woodley, it's clear that Hands Like Houses are going places. They opened with the hard hitting 'New Romantics' and closed with album opener 'I Am', and were as tight and professional as you would expect from a band that's been playing for nine years. In-between, the crowd were treated to 'Perspectives', the sublime 'Grey Havens' and the crushing 'Colourblind'. It was as good a performance by a support band as you are likely to see. With label mates PVRIS expected to blow up in 2017 when their new album is released, Hands Like Houses will undoubtedly find themselves on a similar upward path. I expect great things of them.

High Wycombe's Young Guns seem to have been around forever. Four albums and a career stretching back to 2003 mean that they're seasoned stalwarts of the live Alternative Rock scene. Their sound has evolved from the straight ahead Rock of the debut, through the Hard Rock of 'Bones' and into the more mainstream Americanised fare of 'One & Zeroes' and latest album 'Echoes'. The band has split their time between US recording and touring in tandem with UK live appearances. I expected something special tonight and the band certainly didn't disappoint. Star of the show undoubtedly was singer Gustav Wood. Not only has Wood improved as a vocalist over the years but he's also honed his skills as a showman. Throwing various shapes and poses whilst backlit atop either the drum riser or other stage props was the order of the day, illustrating just what a finely tuned machine Young Guns has now become.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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They chose to largely ignore material from the first two albums – save 'You Are Not' and 'Bones' from the album of the same name and 'The Weight Of The World' from the debut – and instead opted for songs from the 'Ones & Zeroes' and the most recent album 'Echoes'. For this they should be congratulated; bands like Shinedown, for example, should take heed and consider scrapping some of their older material from their set-list and playing some of the newer material. Songs like 'Bulletproof', 'Buried' and 'Mad World' lifted form 'Echoes' were all given an extra edge when played live making them both more aggressive/dynamic and less homogenised than in the studio. The combination of the full throttle guitar and Wood's showmanship ensured energetic highlights were everywhere be it through the new album or via songs like 'Rising Up' or the rousing encore 'I Want Out' from its predecessor. Once again – blame the four band bill – the set was far too short for a band of Young Guns calibre.

Watford's Lower Than Atlantis, known by the ludicrous acronym LTA making them sound like part of the civil service, has been savvy enough to develop their sound. The last two albums (in particular the latest 'Safe in Sound') have opted for a punt at commercial success, maintaining the band's identity whilst branching out to appeal to the mainstream. Clearly it's a tactic that's worked, as they've gone from strength to strength becoming more popular as a result. There's no doubt they're a talented bunch and in vocalist Mike Duce they not only have a natural front-man but also one that enables the band to retain the Englishness that many British Rock bands lose as they attempt to replicate their American counterparts. Oh, and did I mention he's the band's chief song-writer too? One thing is for sure, they certainly don't lose the uniqueness live.

Being a Saturday and the last night of the tour, the party atmosphere was evident. This gig was all built up to LTA and there was no doubt they were the main event; a fifteen song set lay testament to that. Duce can sing live and unnecessary profanities aside, was compelling in the delivery during rousing renditions of the groove-orientated songs 'Had Enough' and 'Dumb' from the latest album. The interspersing of old with the new was a neat trick which achieved just the correct balance in the set-list. Old favourites from the self-titled album were given the same rapturous reception; 'Ain't No Friend', 'Emily', 'Words Don't Come Easily' and 'Criminal' all highlights that were rightly cheered to the rafters. Of the older material, 'Beech Like The Tree' and 'Another Sad Song' – the first song of the encore (from 2011's 'World Record') – were met with predictable enthusiasm by the diehards and yet ultimately the newer material won the day. Last song of the main set, 'Boomerang' a neat Pop-orientated departure from the band's usual fare, provided some nice light and shade and the band showed their musical prowess with proven crowd pleasers 'Here We Go' and the commercial magic of 'English Kids In America'.

This was a consummate performance by a band clearly on the up and on their way to playing bigger arenas. Talent and musicianship doesn't always ally to originality and yet LTA appear to have it all. If you haven't caught this band yet, be sure to catch them on one of their many festival appearances this summer.

Mike Newdeck

Lower Than Atlantis Live 1

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