Live Review - American Football, @ O2 Shepherd'S Bush Empire, 11/02/2017
For a band that hasn’t released new music for over fifteen years, it’s no surprise that the Shepherd’s Bush Empire is packed. American Football dropped their first self-titled album back in 1999, which sadly brought them limited traction – the band split up shortly after its release. Slowly and over many years, the first record became stupidly popular within a niche of the alternative scene. The band reformed in 2014 to play a selection of festival spots and record another eponymous album.
The lone support is Illinois singer/guitarist Evan Weiss – stage name: Into It. Over It. Weiss, for some reason, is surprised at the audience, after all who wouldn’t want to hear an hour “of the most depressing music in the world”? (His words, not mine). He’s a talented musician; that much is evident from his relatively short set and the crowd is easily one of the most polite audiences I’ve seen in a while. He even makes a point of thanking them for it – credit where credit is due, the man receives a certain respect from the crowd seldom seen for support acts. There are moments of contented silence from those in the stalls with only the slightest hubbub from the balcony. Really, it was mesmerizing. Weiss finishes to rapturous applause (he still can’t get over how gracious this crowd is).
American Football’s set is effectively split in two. For the first half they play the 2016 album in its entirety, followed by a five-minute break and then the first album virtually in reverse order. Slightly rusty from old-man-syndrome (they’re not the 21 year olds they used to be) – some words are forgotten towards the end of the set but the crowd doesn’t seem to really mind – theirs isn’t the kind of music you can easily get angry about. Anyway, it’s been seventeen years since they wrote these songs and they’ve had other projects, families and day jobs to get on with. Drummer Steve also doubles on the Trumpet and again, the venue becomes almost still – anyone heard talking or jeering is instantly “shhh’d” during his extended solo. As a trumpet player myself, I can appreciate the pressure of playing in a room that big, to that many people. Mad credit to him – the rest of the crowd seem to agree as well. Overall it’s a relaxed event with plenty of time between songs though the older material is received more warmly than the new (that’s a whole conversation unto itself). They end on their most popular number “Never Meant” which has the crowd singing en masse. A special night from a special band.
Words and Photography by Rhys Haberfield