The Brixton Academy is humming with anticipation. This historic venue is playing host to a milestone in Fightstar‘s career tonight — the conclusion of their 10 year anniversary UK tour, slickly entitled ‘Grand Reunification’ in a cheeky nod to their debut album.
Due to the constraints of employment, yours truly arrives slightly late for SHVPES‘s decent opening set. The Midlands mob’s metallic brand of post-hardcore sees frontman Griffin Dickinson (of Bruce Dickinson offspring fame) throwing himself like a dangerous animal around the stage and encouraging movement from the relatively sparse, but appreciative crowd.
Speaking of dangerous animals, More Dangerous Animal are next to grace the stage. Boasting ex-Brigade members among their ranks — including Will Simpson, brother of Fighstar’s Charlie — the comparatively unknown nature of their songs doesn’t deter a positive reception. Their closing number is a particular highlight with its atmospheric conclusion that begs to be sung along to.
Many people have waxed lyrical about UK emo poster boys Moose Blood, including this very writer on this very site, but tonight is simply one of the biggest nights of their collective lives. Apart from anything else, it’s a giant testament to how far they’ve come in a short amount of time. Lyrically endearing and intensely emotional as ever, the quartet step up to the challenge and unleash the opening anthems of ‘Bukowski’ and ‘Swim Down’. The band appear to be slightly hampered by less-than-perfect drum sound quality, the mics frequently overly emphasising the toms in addition to a quiet snare. Despite this, however, the clarity of their conviction carries Moose Blood through, and more than a few new fans were likely to have been won in an increasingly full auditorium.
Then, with the removal of a black curtain and a growl from Charlie Simpson, Fightstar announce their headlining status with the force of a mighty clout to the head. A stirring rendition of ‘Paint Your Target’ starts their headline slot with a bang, and the pace rarely slows. The band look visibly delighted throughout, with Simpson thanking the crowd at multiple opportunities.
Popular singles ‘We Apologise For Nothing’, ’99’ and ‘The English Way’ are dispatched to an audience that bounces with delight, arms raised aloft and clearly loving every minute. Some have waited a matter of days to see this band again. Some have waited 5 years. Some have never seen them. All appreciate just how great it is to see them on stage after their self-imposed hiatus in 2010.
Halfway through the set, Charlie Simpson briefly ditches his guitar to prowl the stage, and hands it to brother Will on the eve of the latter’s birthday. The temporary five-piece ignite the glorious chaos of ‘Deathcar’, featuring the band’s trademark quiet-loud dynamic sound; the clean choruses inspire spine-tingling singalongs, and the screamed passages provoke ferocious aggression on stage and in the moshpit. Indeed, yours truly becomes something of a bodyguard for a nice man around his early 40s, as the pit expands to where we’re stood. As the band observe the rapturous applause that deservedly comes their way after this highlight, the two brothers embrace with huge grins on their faces. Job well done.
As exhilarating as the crunching guitars are, Fightstar show they can do delicate too: Charlie and co-vocalist/six-stringer Alex Westaway break out their acoustic guitars for ‘Amethyst’ as the encore commences. The last part of their set draws heavily from early material, with several cuts lifted from that crucial first EP They Liked You Better When You Were Dead. As some fans begin to drift towards the exits to be sure of grabbing their transport home, those who stick around are rewarded with the fantastic , slow-burning ‘Mono’ to wrap up a fantastic night. It reminded us how brilliant Fightstar have been over the past decade, but also showcased how much potential there still is to come. The guys promise there is new music on the horizon: on this display, they’ve lost none of their captivating energy.
Bring it on.