Thursday, 25 November 2010

Live Review: Anberlin, Hawthorne Heights and What Now - Wedgwood Rooms, Portsmouth - 21/11/2010

It’s been a long old road for Anberlin up until this point, front man Stephen Christian going as far as to state that “In the past it’s been very tough for us. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or you have to call home and beg for gas money from your family, it really sucks.” But the grit and determination to get through the sticky patches seems to have paid off. With three top 20 albums in the US and a headline UK tour to boot, Anberlin look set for bigger nights than tonight and Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms.

Openers What Now bring a feisty, if slightly unoriginal sound, with their South African accents causing more of a stir than much of their set. ‘Toy Soldiers’ is the highlight from the London based 3-piece, with an anthemic, Funeral for a Friend-esq style that goes down well. 

Waiting in the wings are Ohio’s Hawthorne Heights, who struggle to make an impact. It’s a sign of the times for the quintet that tracks like ‘Niki FM’ and ‘Ohio Is For Lovers’ from 2004 debut ‘The Silence In Black And White’ are deemed most worthy of the rooms attention, and sadly for JT Woodruff and Co. they are treated like a throwback to many punters’ teen years, rather than a band for the here and now.

Anberlin steady what up to this point has been a sinking ship in Portsmouth. What the two opening acts lack, the Floridians have in abundance, presence, execution, craft and, to put in bluntly, quality. Heavy on material from their latest offering, ‘Dark Is The Way, Light Is The Place’, Anberlin’s performance is a joy to behold. Encompassing everything from guitar heavy powerhouses to acoustic ballads, the 5-piece’s set strikes a balance between new and old that bands so often struggle with when the lure of playing fresh material is so strong.

Christian has all the animation of a fully charged Pikachu, taking full control of the room from his perch on The Wedge’s cramped stage as he belts out opening numbers ‘We Owe This To Ourselves’ and‘Paperthin Hymn’‘Dismantle. Repair’ is a brilliantly crafted, the choice to have guitarist Christian McAlhany flank Christian in delivering the title lyric working exceptionally well. A breather comes in the forms of tranquil mid-set renditions of ‘Take Me (As You Found Me)’ and ‘The Unwinding Cable Car’, the latter prompting a cry of expectancy from the much contented crowd.

Penultimate finale ‘Feel Good Drag’ sparks the most movement thus far, as Christian positively spits the lines “Your lips, your lies, your lust” to the obvious delight of the now ecstatic throng toward the front. An impromptu performance of fan favourite ‘Readyfuel’ brings the night to an end in inspired fashion, leaving us to reflect on how good a band Anberlin truly are.

'Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place'  by Anberlin is available now in the US on Universal Republic and is released in the UK on November 15th through Defacto/Island Records.

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Liam McGarry

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