Five Seconds of Summer are a big, international name in music. They undoubtedly belong to the ‘boyband’ genre – one that relentlessly demands good looks and a pop sound – yet they have managed to carve a reputation that lifts them above this often laughed at label through the novelty of their Australian roots and a certain edge to their music. Somehow 5SOS have risen to a celebrity status, and my excitement before their show in Nottingham was certainly influenced by a sense that I was going to see a band who were properly famous, and who wouldn’t quite seem real when I actually saw them. Luckily that wasn’t all that I hoped to gain from the show, because if it had been it would have been a sore disappointment; as the foursome appeared on stage to the screams of hundreds of adolescent girls, they looked like exactly what they are: young boys with an unfussy rock style, who seemed surprisingly unaccustomed and uncomfortable with the attention that they were receiving. In short, they did not act or look ‘famous’, but refreshingly grounded.
The show opened with the aptly named ‘Hey Everybody!’, a fun song demonstrative of the band’s anarchic freshness. In terms of performance, though, I found the show’s beginning to be lacking. As possibly the peak of the audience’s excitement, the band’s first moments on stage are the time for the highest energy, yet 5 Seconds of Summer did not enter with the confidence that I was expecting from such a successful band. Yes, they were singing their songs and playing their instruments, but it didn’t feel like they were interacting with an expectant live audience.
Luckily, the atmosphere shifted a few songs in as the foursome visibly relaxed, and it was at this point that they really came into their own. Led by guitarist and vocalist Michael Clifford, who displayed a surprising warm charisma throughout the show, asking the audience to stand, the band acknowledged their audience and switched to a mode of performance that was electrically live. Playing a mix of songs from their first and second albums, the set boasted a brilliant string of catchy pop rock songs right until they closed with their first hit single, ‘She Looks so Perfect’. A definite highlight, though, was a brash rendition of their most poignant hit single ‘Amnesia’, which was given intimacy through the first verse being played acoustically. For sure, being a member of a ten thousand strong audience passionately chanting the lyrics to the song was one of the most memorable and special moments of the gig.
“Despite a shy start, 5 Seconds of Summer proved themselves as charismatic and lively performers at the concert”
Despite a shy start, 5 Seconds of Summer proved themselves as charismatic and lively performers at the concert. The show was mature and polished, however a couple of aspects suggested that it was aimed towards a younger audience. Firstly, Michael Clifford invented a song – ‘Who has the best ham? Nottingham’ – which was funny, but felt unfortunately childlike, whilst his question ‘How many of you were forced to come here?’, presumably meaning parents, only reinforced the sense that a percentage of the audience were, to be blunt, children. As well as this, the band’s assertion before the encore that they only had ‘one song left to play’, having not yet performed their two most successful songs, was awkwardly obvious. Overall though the more immature aspects of the show didn’t really affect it negatively at all, and since most of the audience were young girls, they were catering to their fans. In the future, however, I would like to think that an awareness that their music may not only be attractive to this audience demographic will lead to 5 Seconds of Summer having a student fan base at their concerts also, because they certainly have a style and edge that could appeal to different listeners.
In terms of the set-up of the show, one of the features of ‘Sounds Live Feels Live’ that I enjoyed most was the show’s simplicity. The stage set-up was effective yet simple, and there was no ‘text in and you might get to come on stage with the band’. Instead, it had the feel of an old-school music concert: musicians creating their own music on stage for an hour and half with no unnecessary interruptions. Key to this was the extent to which Luke, Michael, Calum and Ashton were obviously all very accomplished musicians. All four members displayed their mastery of their instruments, and played guitar and drum solos, whilst confusingly there was a piano that Michael played at random intervals. The attention given to drummer Ashton Irwin was also brilliantly done, as his sometimes overlooked instrument was placed centrally on the stage and he spoke to the audience in the same manner as the guitarists.
All in all, ‘Sounds Live Feels Live’ was a thoroughly enjoyable show that demonstrated why 5 Seconds of Summer should not simply be labelled a boyband who can only appeal to young girls. Rock-infused pop that was straightforwardly played on-stage by the band was exciting not just for teenage audiences, and although elements of the show did seem directed towards this group, the show was clever enough to be fun even if you are not a teenage girl.
Image: Ianthebush via Flickr
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.