Photo credit: udou.
The expectations surrounding the band from South-End-On-Sea may seem slightly intimidating, but the maxed-out venue in Bristol swarming with dedicated fans eases the pressure, everyone’s up for it. This is their first UK stop on the Broken Machine tour, and when tickets for this gig were released earlier this year, they were instantly snatched up. This second tour has a different tone to it; it’s a cathartic therapy session for the band, thoroughly anticipated, and a sympathetic response to their resilience.
Bristol’s venue actively differentiates the crowd, those ready to mosh have the ground floor while the more reserved can retreat to the rafters. It invites an intimate band crowd dynamic, without feeling encroached, Nothing But Thieves will be able to see the faces of the whole room. The stage set up consists of the white album cover as the backdrop, James Price’s drum kit is raised on a platform and surrounded by UV lighting shaped as lightning bolts. It’s simplistic and classic, the perfect complement to a band with some insanely complex sounds.
Canadian band July Talk are the first openers, chemically charged they have a blues rock sound. Their appeal comes from sultry voices and the physicality of them from their front man and woman Peter and Leah. It perfectly warms the crowd up for a night of heavy rock and powerful notes.
The lights dim, and the five-piece walk onto stage greeted by doting fans and a chorus of screams, there’s certainly no time to consider the magnitude of this tour as the band launch straight into I’m Not Made By Design. There’s an element of impressiveness regarding the support and understanding of the crowd, Conor Mason’s voice is undoubtedly powerful but we’re all aware of the difficulty of this song to sing. The crowd waits with baited breath for ‘that note’, mid-chorus he pushes his voice to breaking point, its stunning, the crowd goes mental. Mason can afford to ruffle his blond locks and smile in appreciation to the reaction, he relaxes into the concert.
Nothing But Thieves’ new album is critically acclaimed so Mason’s inquiring as to whether anyone has a copy results in an intense reaction from the crowd, judging by the display of lyrical knowledge, everyone’s got a copy. It’s very easy to be enraptured by their presence, the new album is underpinned by a raw magnetism and vulnerability, there’s a strong sense that it’s an emotional outlet for the five. The band works in perfect union, Joe, Dominic and Philip synchronise on guitar and bass, Price grounds the production while Mason’s voice is just insane. The bands unison and talent is demonstrated particularly when Conor Mason announces;
“Unfortunately, we’ve written some songs that are pretty hard to sing, so I’m going to take a short break, I’ll be back.”
We don’t blame him; his range has been thoroughly tested and it gives a sense of how he is humbled to his talent. The rest of the band continue to play through the interlude, increasing the momentum of the crowd, the energy is electric. Later, Mason returns to the stage and the band power through some of the older classics like Itch and Graveyard Whistling, the latter being off their first EP, it’s so very clear how far they’ve grown, lyrically and emotionally. There’s no denying that the band’s allure rests on their front man, and in honour of this, he performs the next two songs alone. Mason alone with an acoustic guitar, pays tribute to Tom Petty’s career and sings Freefalling followed by his own Hell, Yeah. It’s touching and a welcome reduction in tempo for those prone to moshing at the front. The rest of the band return, affectionately patting Mason on the back as they resume their positions on stage.
We are all acutely aware that Particles and Amsterdam are left, arguably some of the most powerful songs in their arsenal. This results in the best reaction from the audience, as the lyrics are positively screamed back onto the stage. The light show is powerful and the audience’s energy peaks during Amsterdam. At the end we’re all left emotionally drained but 100% satisfied. Nothing But Thieves have cemented their position in the world of rock.
Through a demonstration of their individual vulnerability, they reveal a great sense of strength and provide comfort that the future of rock is in thoroughly capable hands.