Live at Cockpit on Sunday, 25th March 2007
The Cockpit this evening is surrounded by more buzz than I've seen here before. But perhaps buzz is not quite the right word - it would be more accurate to say that there are more hormones flying around tonight than gigs I have previously attended. The predominantly only-just-adolescent audience is, of course, more here for the aesthetics of The Academy Is... than their music. And again maybe I'm misleading with my language and imprecise about what I'm really getting at. In plain, simple terms: most of the hoards of teens gathering outside are here to see the painfully emaciated legs, glossy, feminine hair and general stage antics of William Beckett, The Academy Is...' frontman. But they, like me, have two support bands to listen to before the headlining act will come on.
The first band, Young Love, is apparently not immediately popular amongst this crowd, but they soon become so. Their brand of thrashy, synth-laden, electro indie obviously appeals. I must admit, they do rather look the part. The singer is dressed like a Pete Doherty who has just visited the Bronx, the drummer's playing great grooves with ease and panache, and the synth player (when not experimenting on one of his 3 synthesisers) is stereotypically uncomfortable in front of so many people, preferring to carefully place his hair over his eyes in an attempt to either appear more hip or convince himself he doesn't have an audience, it's debatable. But despite the obvious confident musicianship on show, the set is somehow uninspiring. The songs have strong hooks, but refuse to do much more. Nevertheless they are crowd pleasers - and the singer certainly knows it, demonstrating a little more self-assurance than strictly necessary, also detracting somewhat from their credibility.
With The Audition, I unfortunately get the same feeling, only ten times worse. This time, the singer, Danny Stevens' arrogance is not greeted with vague confusion but a considerable amount of Hero-Worship. Surprising, as I personally see very little that is heroic about any of the band. However, the overriding impression is that they are slightly unrehearsed and loose - but of course this is well hidden by overly-generous helpings of distortion on the part of the guitarists. Egged on by the band, the audience becomes progressively less like sensible gig goers and results in a merciless moshpit. This is presumably also a diversion from the amateurish performance given - a shame really, as the songs themselves are starry-eyed pop-punk at its most enjoyable.
A short pause after The Audition's set, and then The Academy Is... come on. Moments like this can't help but make me feel a sort of maternal pride, having seen the band in last year's Slam Dunk Festival when they were, oddly enough, of little interest to the diehard Fall Out Boy fans. Today, everyone is on the bandwagon. And with good reason! The Academy Is... give a wonderful performance, playing all of the tracks on their debut album as well as a little new material. The energetic music is fresh and unique, oozing style. The addition of Michael Guy Chislett as the new second guitarist has been a positive one, as both guitar parts sound even more secure than before - playing off each other brilliantly. William Beckett belts out the lyrics full of jaded experience and refusal to conform, pleasing simultaneously those looking for individuality in a world of mediocre music and lyrics and those there to see his good looks. However, the absence of many of their recently-penned songs on the set list does unnerve me slightly, and I'm left wondering whether the band themselves are unconvinced by what they have written for their follow-up album - despite the fact that this is a tour to promote the new record.
Even with slightly shaky support bands, it turns out to be an extremely enjoyable and memorable gig; The Academy Is... giving a flawless show. This is absolutely inspiring stuff - and they're promising to return later this year. Wouldn't miss it for the world.