It would be something of an understatement to say that Sheffield-based Bring Me The Horizon have divided opinion over the years. Outspoken frontman Oli Sykes has provoked adoration and derision in equal measure, and had to battle his own well-documented personal demons. Yet on their current arena tour, the band is proving that victory is finally theirs.
As soon as the first notes of opening track ‘Happy Song’ rang out, one thing was immediately evident: there was no holds barred in terms of production. With the staging consisting of giant HD screens curving around the stage, there was a palpable sense of amazement at the quality of the images displayed and their effect of fully immersing the audience in every song.
“There’s nothing more cathartic than shouting along to the lyric ‘middle fingers up, if you don’t give a fuck’ in a packed arena full of people doing just that”
Despite the stunning combination of lighting and visual effects, the production did not overshadow the music. Rather, it made each song sound even more epic. The newer songs in particular (which made up most of the set list) seemed perfectly crafted for an arena setting. The band relied heavily on cuts from 2015’s That’s the Spirit – an album that evoked cries of ‘sell outs’ upon its release, but which in fact showcased their natural evolution as a musical outfit.
That evolution was no more apparent than when BMTH did play an older song: ‘Chelsea Smile’ from 2008’s Suicide Season. While it evoked an enthusiastic reaction and sounded as brutal as ever, it was somewhat forgettable when played alongside newer heavyweights such as ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Throne’. The band didn’t air any other tracks from Suicide Season and none from earlier album Count Your Blessings, suggesting that BMTH themselves feel that they have outgrown the ‘screamo’ days of old.
Somewhat disappointingly, they didn’t even play any tracks from 2010’s There is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There is a Heaven, Let’s Keep it a Secret. As an album that bridges the gap between the BMTH of old and their more recent incarnation, it is a crucial component of the band’s story and classic tracks like ‘It Never Ends’ would have been a crowd-pleasing addition to the set list.
Yet this is only a minor complaint: songs from the band’s two most recent albums were more than capable of sending the crowd into a frenzy. Tracks from 2013’s Sempiternal sounded incendiary live, particularly ‘Antivist’ – apparently there’s nothing more cathartic than shouting along to the lyric ‘middle fingers up, if you don’t give a fuck’ in a packed arena full of people doing just that.
“Surely festival headlining slots beckon?”
Megahits ‘Shadow Moses’ and ‘Follow You’, to name just two examples, were performed with such passion and vigour that it was impossible not to feel a surge of emotion when listening to them, and the strategic use of confetti, smoke and more added to the sense of occasion. Rather than swamping the music or allowing the band to hide, the mesmerising production emphasised the brilliance of BMTH’s songs, and their achievement at having crafted tracks that connect with people to such an extent.
The concluding track of the night, ‘Drown’ from That’s the Spirit, emphasised just how monumental Bring Me the Horizon have become, and reinforced the idea that the gig was a resounding victory. Surely festival headlining slots beckon? If it were up to the 10,000 or so fans at tonight’s gig, the organisers of Reading & Leeds would be on the phone tomorrow.
Image courtesy of Rachel Harrison