Live Review: Coast to Coast & Better Than Never - O2 Oxford Academy, 21/04/2017
The Oxford date is the final night of the Better Than Never and Coast To Coast co-headline tour. Knowing that is wasn't the first time I've seen these two bands on a co-headline tour, I was definitely excited to see what they were going to bring to the stage tonight, and if the last time I saw them was anything to go by tonight was going to be an insane show to witness and be a part of. I'm always excited to be back in the exact room where I first started working and to see two pop punk bands co-headline this room was going to be spectacular, especially as the crowd turn out seemed a lot better than last time even by the time doors had opened.
The lights in the room dimmed and the stage lights went up and the crowd were ready for local pop punk band The Last To Leave. Now I caught these boys live a few months back and was impressed by what they bought to the stage then, I was even happier seeing them the second time around and seeing the improvements and experience they've gained over the last year. Tonight they put out one hell of an opening act, and whether that was the incredible guitar riffs, catchy vocals or foot tapping to the beat of the drums but it all worked so well. In the last few months you could tell lead vocalist and frontman Matty had certainly improved on his vocals and he really portrayed that in the set, and it was so incredible to see. The band put on a killer set including new tracks and even included a cover of Mr Brightside by The Killers which the crowd (including myself) were singing along to and it was so beautiful to see the crowd being so involved with the band too, the cover was shortly followed by a round of applause from the crowd and smiles going around the room. Last To Leave ended their set with a new track which was introduced by "This is probably the hardest song we've ever written" however this track was probably the catchiest one of the set (minus the cover) but left the room singing along with the band, the song was filled with incredible riffs and accompanying baselines and was followed by a massive round of applause from the crowd.
One State Drive were the second band to grace the stage, also being local this was a great hometown show for these boys too. I’ve seen this band support Better Than Never a few times over the last year and it’s understandable why they keep being asked to come back. As soon as the lights went up the band were ready to start their energetic set. From the moment of the first few notes were played it got me hooked and it happens every time I see them perform, One State Drive are certainly one of those bands that stand out especially with their live shows. One State Drive owned the stage throughout the set with a load of crowd interaction and such energy that I was struggling to pinpoint who was where on the stage, but I’ve always loved that sort of challenge with pop punk bands. Lead vocalist Addy, was frequently getting off the stage and moving to and even into the crowd and whether that was for the fans to sing the songs back into the microphone or just to show the fans a bit of affection with the odd hug here and there. The one thing I love about this band is that the people within the room don’t seem to be looked as ‘fans’ they seem to be treated more like friends and it’s beautiful to see. One State Drive have a habit of adding a cover into their set and the more popular one they seem to put their own spin on is One Direction’s - Kiss Me. I absolutely love it when a band can take a popular song and put their own spin onto it and this is a band who know just how to do that. With the crowd, me included were singing along to the song even from behind my camera. I seem to find the covers that One State Drive perform live are always the highlight of the set because of how much they make it their own and I love that.
I think there was a few comments from the band that cracked me up during their set, the ultimate one was “This song is for if you don’t wash your genitals” I’m still confused of how this even came about but at the same time I think it might be safer if I didn’t question it. One of the members of the crowd had shouted something to the band and the only response was “Can someone remove him….get this guy out, lets do this thing” the banter One State Drive have with the crowd is absolutely hilarious. Just before One State Drive ended their time on the stage Addy asked “This next one, I want you to bounce” with a quiet response, Addy tried again “Are we gonna fucking bounce?” The crowd responded with a massive “YEAH” the last track was Keeping Score, which is one of my personal favourites and it consisted of the crowd jumping along with the band (who needs to go to gym when you can just see this band instead) The set had a perfect balance of collaborative vocals, punk style riffs and a great beat behind every track performed, following that and the amount of the energy put into the set it was absolutely incredible to see and be a part of as always. The set included songs from their EP ‘It Ain’t Cheesy Being Easycore’ which if you’ve not checked out I would highly recommend doing so as it’s a great EP.
Next up were co-headliners Coast To Coast, from the videos I caught on social media in the days before were something to be excited about catching live myself. After catching them live on the last Co-headliner they did last year with Better Than Never, I had a vague idea of what to expect from them. After hearing their latest release The Length Of A Smile, I was hyped to see a few of these tracks live too. However tonight seemed a little more relaxed for the CTC boys, as they usually have a habit for bouncing about the stage in true pop punk style, but there seemed to be a much more chilled vibe coming from them, nonetheless it worked great for them. The vocals throughout the set were so rad to listen to, the way Keiran had so much power to his voice was one of the things that made him stand out. The more riffs and beats of the drums that were played, the more the band were getting into the set. The one thing I noticed about the crowd was how they were always engaged, and were consistent in singing the lyrics back to the band, and that was definitely one of the many things that stood out with their set. Another thing that really left me mesmerised was their instrumental ability, with every chord and beat sounding as flawless as the last, it really proved what this band are truly capable of and how they were destined to be performing on a stage.
Although, every time I looked up from the notes of the set I was making I noticed more of the crowd moving closer to the barrier and chanting the lyrics with so much passion it was unreal. If anything Coast To Coast have such an incredible fanbase and have made such a name for themselves over the years, and when the fans are singing along to tracks from their latest EP it really does prove just how much of an impact this band have made with the pop punk scene. As soon as the set started to come to a close, the crowd were moving in time with the beat of the drums and with fans smiling and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Coast To Coast are a band that just create an incredible vibe within the room. As soon as the final few chords of the night were starting to be played, you could see the crowd getting more and more involved. Whether it was the way they own the stage and make the room their own or how much the crowd were interacting with them it was a flawless set from start to finish.
Lastly were co-headliners Better Than Never. I’m sure I’d struggle to count on my hands how many times I’ve seen these boys perform in the last 3 years but every time is an incredible experience to witness and there hasn’t been a show of theirs that I haven’t been to and enjoyed or sang my heart out and tonights set was definitely another one of those. After Better Than Never had only released their EP Head Under Water less than six months back which was followed up with reviews from magazines such as Rocksound, these boys have definitely taken the UK pop punk scene by storm so it’s wonderful to see the band getting the recognition they deserve and have worked so hard for over the years
Anyway, the lights were lowered for the final time tonight and the crowd roared for the 5 piece as they entered the stage, and embraced their final night of the tour in their hometown. Now, hometown shows for Better Than Never have also been a massive highlight when it comes to seeing them live. The first thing I noticed about the band tonight was the two newest members of the six piece, but even with the line up change the newer members looked at home with the original four members of the band and it was great to see. Better Than Never have always performed shows where the crowd reactions are so well received, as they are a band who have a fanbase that adore them and the music they produce. The amount of times I looked up from my camera screen all I could see were fans chanting the words back to the band throughout their set
The one thing I didn’t expect tonight was a much heavier track but ‘Forty Eight’ but nonetheless it worked perfectly, especially with the amount of energy the band put on stage as it is. The variation of cleans and unclean vocals that were produced were absolutely insane and were great to hear. After yet another round of applause for the boys, guitarist and backing vocalist Will let his comedic side come out a little bit more “Can I just say for a point of record that I wrote the next song, all by myself with no help from anyone in this crowd, and I fucking wrote it yesterday” followed a quick and hilarious remark from lead singer James, after a sound of laughter from the crowd the band kicked off a cover of Fall Out Boy’s Sugar We’re going Down, while observing the room you could see the crowd singing along with the band and if I’m honest I’m sure the majority of the room probably grew up and sang to this track in stereo. The fans were clapping along to the chorus, while the band were still putting their own spin on the track and if anything this is one of the many things I love about BTN.
The entire set was filled with amusing comments, minus the odd one or two I couldn’t really risk putting on the internet as it was a little ooooh moment. The band kicked off the ‘last’ track of the night ‘Learning To Swim from their latest released EP Head Under Water, this was yet another track where the fans were singing along to every word, while the 6 piece were jumping around the stage as usual, the songs involves collaborated vocals from both James and Will, it’s the kind of collaboration that just works perfectly with this band especially when the chords and beats are added too it as well as the fans joining in. The band started to leave the stage and all of a sudden the crowd were chanting “One more song, one more song!” the room wasn’t ready to call it a night just yet. The band reentered the stage, with James and Will having their usual back and fourth banter between themselves
“Do we have any more songs?”
“Thousand more songs”
“They don’t know that”
While pointing a Will, James went on to say “But he does have his comedy stand up set” which was responded to with a “Hellooooo”
“Go on then, we’ll play one more, My throat does hurt though, so if you know the words sing along as loud as you can, this song is called Back Of The Line Kid” James jumped down to the barrier and headed for the crowd with Will in tow, within seconds of reaching the barrier the vocals had started. Both James and Will were singing along with the fans in the crowd and doing what they do best, while the other four members of the band were making the most of the stage. The crowd were bouncing the words back to the boys, and even when James moved away from the microphone all you could hear were the fans carrying on for him. After the last few notes were being played the set was coming to a close, and ended with a massive round of applause and cheers from the crowd. After just over a week on tour with Coast To Coast this was certainly an incredible way to see it all off.
Words and Photography by Heather Lowe