Almost a year after their co-headline tour with Reel Big Fish, living legends Less Than Jake returned to the UK to co-headline with fellow Florida bred Yellowcard, for a night that promised to be full of, sing your misunderstood heart out Pop Punk and dance your ass off Ska.
First on the bill was French pop punk fused metalcore band Chunk! No, Captain Chunk [6/10]. Arriving on stage to a slightly disappointing crowd, it was incredibly hard not to assume who had come for Less Than Jake and who had come for the rest of the night’s line-up. Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! appropriately started their set with single ‘Haters Gonna Hate’ with those who knew the band thrashing along and those who didn’t wandering off to join the already large queue at the bar. Although the band got off to what can only be described as a slow start, their cover of ‘All Star’ did seem to get the audience’s attention, with everyone dancing along to the much loved song and all age groups screaming “hey, now, you’re an All Star get your game on” and “all that glitters is gold”. After ‘All Star’ the crowd seemed far more responsive, perhaps due to the cover, growing alcohol levels or the knowledge that everyone would soon be in the presence of Less Than Jake. There was nothing awful about the bands performance, it was just unfortunate that the crowd seemed more interested in getting s***-faced than actually appreciating the support act. It can’t be denied that the best part about the band is still ‘The Goonies’ inspired name: Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!
With the support act over and a now full O2 Academy, the stage was hurriedly being set up with a Hello Rockview inspired set design, while the excitement in the room seemed to be reaching new levels. The positive energy was being shared with people from all backgrounds and the vibe was verging on electric… everyone was heavily anticipating the moment Ska-Punk badasses would erupt on stage and do what they have done best for over 20 years. The moment finally came as the room became dark and the crowd became quite, a few seconds later an ominous voice was heard on the overhead informing the crowd of tonight’s antics and preparing everyone for a show of a lifetime. The recording instructed the audience to “shut the f*** up” start “binge drinking” dance horribly and “loose our minds”. There was no better introduction for a band that became famous for their off the hook shows; the night was bound to be an incredible one.
The lights flew back on and Less Than Jake [9/10] came thundering on to the stage, to a crowd that was moshing before the music had even begun. Less Than Jake had just single handily set the O2 on fire, with everyone’s knees up and arms flying the band rocketed into ‘Look What Happened’, the room was alive. Not only did Less Than Jake send the entire room into a frenzy of movement, but they were also radiating as much energy as the crowd, with both band and audience seeming at home in the packed out room. With a catalogue spanning best hit set-list, there wasn’t a moment that the audience didn’t think was insane, with everyone in the room singing the lyrics to hits like ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’, ‘Harvey Wallbanger’, ‘The Ghosts of Me and You’ and ‘All My Best Friends are Metalheads’. The bands theme tune for ‘Pac Man Cereal’ was also played throughout the night with the band exploding into the 30 second piece at any given moment, not unhappily forcing the crowd to shout “You can do it, you can do the Pac Man”. The whole performance from the band was incredibly tight and it would appear age really hasn’t affected the bands ability to still put on a night to remember, with their childlike energy and gags still a key part of the show. While the musical performance was obviously insane, the effort that Less Than Jake put into the show was just as noteworthy, with toilet cannons, Less Than Jake balloons and fans being invited up on stage, they truly ensured that everyone lost their minds. Throughout the show it became evident that every member of Less Than Jake makes the band the awesome monster that it is, with Chris DeMakes endless banter with Roger Lima, Buddy Schaub’s insane energy, JR’s badass Saxophone playing and Vinnie Fiorello’s drumming the band are a seriously good live act. Gainseville might not actually be rock city, but Less Than Jake sure as hell made sure Birmingham was. Thankfully, Less Than Jake don’t seem to be quitting anytime soon. Who said ska-punk was dead?
With the mind-blowing performance from Less Than Jake hanging in the air, it seemed unfair to make anyone come on stage after them, however Yellowcard [7/10] took to the stage with grace, even after the crowd had gotten slightly smaller. The front row was a throng of hardcore fans all donning Yellowcard merch and anticipating the band that they had come to see, while the rest of us left happily waited around for the rest of the show to commence. After the electric energy of Less Than Jake, the sombre sound of Sean Mackin’s violin was an eerie but beautiful contrast to what the room had just heard, bringing an interesting melodic tone to the pop punk genre. The purple hue of light that illuminated the stage enhanced the entire experience and all doubts of whether the band could live up to Less Than Jake began to fade away as Yellowcard stormed into ‘Convocation’. Admittedly, it took a while for the crowd to warm up but by ‘Crash and Gates’ the majority of the room began to sing along and by ‘Lights and Sounds’ mosh pits had opened up around the room, with Ryan Key’s infectious energy beginning to seep into the crowd. ‘Make Me So’ encouraged the crowd to participate in a heartfelt sing-along as everyone in the room began to sing “Why, why do you let me go?”. The band also thanked the crowd for letting them “share new music” with their fans and like Less Than Jake genuinely seemed to love what they were doing. Although, the performance didn’t come close to that of Less Than Jake’s, it was still a good show in its own right, especially for a band that hand supported Less Than Jake in 2002 and was now headlining alongside them.