On Friday the 17th June I headed up to Belfast for the weekend, that day I headed to Belsonic in its new home of the Titanic Quarter to see English rock band Bring Me The Horizon. Support on the night came from fellow English rock band Don Broco and local heroes And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA). Belsonic’s new home has gifted the festival with a larger capacity, tonnes of space to make use of and a view of the nearby Titanic Belfast. The extra space has allowed for some fair style attractions and a larger VIP area, due to this space the venue feels far from cramped as empty space was only a small stroll away from the best views of the stage. Speaking of the stage it was both very large and very impressive, it was relatively high off the ground too giving everybody a great view, something you would normally only see at much larger festivals.
Despite taking to the stage an hour after the gate opened Don Broco are greeted by a relatively sparse crowd, not that they let it bother them. Having caught them live back in February last year as part of The Kerrang! Tour 2015 I knew exactly what to expect from them, fun and at times borderline cheeky English pop rock. The always catchy ‘You Wanna Know’ kicked off their set to much fanfare from the crowd. Before ‘What You Do To Me’, off their latest album ‘Automatic’, vocalist Rob Damiani asks the crowd to get on the ground before getting them to jump up as the song started. ‘Money Power Fame’ was a fun song to finish their set off with, with Rob and Matt trading vocals throughout it. A brief set from a band who could have easily played, and kept the crowd entertained, for longer but it was easily enjoyable by anybody regardless of if they knew the band beforehand or not: 8/10.
By the time And So I Watch You From Afar took to the stage the venue was starting to fill up, even moreso by the end of their set. ASIWYFA’s music is largely instrumental, at times featuring either sampled or live vocals that are little more than ‘oooh’s and ‘aaah’s, resulting in these vocals sounding more like sound effects than singing. Their set consisted of songs from all four of their albums. The local crowd seemed pretty into the set, with fans near the front starting a mosh pit pretty early in the set, this mosh pit was quickly broken up by the security (due to Belsonic’s strict ‘no moshing’ policy) who from then on kept an eye on that section of the crowd for the rest of the set, despite this a second attempt at a mosh pit was not stopped. ASIWYFA finished their set off with ‘The Voiceless’ off their debut self-titled album, ‘The Voiceless’ being both an even more atmospheric song than the rest of their set and the perfect chilled song to finish their set with, to serious applause from the crowd. Arguably not the right band to fill the main support slot on this show but being out of place took nothing away from their set: 8/10.
Where do I even start with Bring Me The Horizon? I first came across the band when ‘Pray for Plagues’ off 2006’s ‘Count Your Blessings’ was the video that autoplayed on a girl I knews Bebo page back in 2009, it would be more than a year before I would even call the song or contents of the ‘deathcore’ album ‘music’, and it would be a few more years before I started to fully appreciate the album as a whole. Meanwhile I like many other surprised people had fallen absolutely in love with the metalcore sound of their 2nd album ‘Suicide Season’ and in turn with the experimental sound of 3rd album ‘There Is A Hell…’. I was meant to see the band live in Birmingham with Bullet for My Valentine in December 2010 but due to a clash with my college exams I was unable to attend, and then somehow nobody told me they were playing The Academy, Dublin until a few days before the gig, when the show was already sold out. Missing both of those shows has absolutely killed me ever since. When they last played Belsonic, again with Bullet for My Valentine, I was still living in Clare and could not afford it. So finally getting to see them over five years after I first meant to means a lot to me.
Over the course of their last two albums they have almost completely abandoned their metalcore sound for a heavy arena rock sound, despite this I, like most of their fanbase, have fully embraced this change. Even the mainstream media has had to embrace the band as both of their last two albums have charted on the mainstream charts in multiple countries, ‘That’s The Spirit’ debuting at No. 2 in both the US and UK, something none of us, myself included, ever expected from a deathcore band from Sheffield that once upon a time everybody seemed to hate.
Bring Me The Horizon opened their set with ‘Doomed’ into ‘Happy Song’, the chants of ‘S P I R I T Spirit let’s hear it!’ from the crowd being almost deafening. ‘Go To Hell, for Heaven’s Sake’ off ‘Sempiternal’, unexpectedly one of the strongest tracks of the night, showcased that the heavier album fits in perfectly with the arena rock direction of ‘That’s The Spirit’, the song sounded absolutely massive live. As ‘The House of Wolves’ kicked in vocalist Oli Sykes demanded circle pits and the crowd ever eager to please formed multiple ones during the song. ‘Avalanche’, my favorite track off ‘That’s The Spirit’, was the highlight of the set for me, I will also not deny that I shed a few tears during the emotional ‘I need a cure for me…’ part of the song. ‘Chelsea Smile’ off ‘Suicide Season’ was the oldest song in the set, one Oli struggles to perform live due to the damage his throat sustained due to his screaming during the bands early days, so before they played it Oli asked the crowd to sing it for him, as the song kicked off Oli demanded that the crowd ‘jump, jump, jump’. Midway through ‘Chelsea Smile’ during the bridge Oli asked if the crowd trusted him then asked everybody to ‘sit on the fucking floor’ saying that ‘the memories will last forever’, the band members themselves and even some of the security joined in, then as the song kicked back in he said ‘3,2,1 jump’ and the crowd sprung back into life.
A sampled section of ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ from Metal Gear Solid signaled the start of ‘Shadow Moses’ aka ‘this is sempiternal’, clips from the songs music video played in the background on the large screen on the stage and at points during it the smoke cannons shot off clouds of smoke. Oli spoke about depression before they played ‘Sleepwalking’, they followed it up with a song that is the closest thing to pop song that the band will probably ever release ‘Follow You’, then started to restore the energy in the crowd with ‘Can You Feel My Heart’. They rounded out their main set with their heaviest anthems with the angsty, heavy, keyboard warrior activists calling out track that is ‘Antivist’ and the nu-metal sounding ‘Throne’. By the end of ‘Antivist’ Oli’s vocals were sounding a bit blown, despite that he got through ‘Throne’ with very little weakness in his voice showing through.
Bring Me The Horizon’s encore consisted of their most chilled songs, which are much easier on Oli’s throat that late into a set, finishing on these more stripped back emotional songs in my opinion was perfect. ‘True Friends’ was a bit heavier than the other two songs played as part of the encore but it kept the tempo up and it resulted in one of the loudest sing-a-longs of the night. A very welcome surprise came during the encore with the addition of ‘Blessed With A Curse’ off their 3rd album ‘There Is A Hell…’, something that those of us who keep an eye on tour setlists were not expecting, the members of the crowd that knew it happily sang along. They finished their set with the expected ‘Drown’ a song that nobody expected from them when they released it back in late 2014, a song that hinted at how arena rock focused their next album ‘That’s The Spirit’ was to be. The set ended with an explosive finish with smoke cannons shooting off before the reveal of the BMTH logo in lights.
Arena rock and arena shows suit Bring Me The Horizon far more than I ever expected them to, the band felt right at home playing Belsonic. The crowd sang along throughout the set and Oli interacted with the crowd perfectly. Despite Oli’s vocals being far from perfect at times I simply can not fault the band: 10/10. When are they back?