It always feels like a treat when a band plays in Chester as it’s easy to get to and from the city from my hometown in North Wales, so the news that Hawthorne Heights would be playing their album If Only You Were Lonely (an album I listened to a lot back when it was first released!) was certainly very welcome to me.
Arriving just as Hill Valley High had begun their set, it felt like they were a good choice of local support for the show because they were just so enthusiastic, and although they weren’t the most original band in a musical sense, it was great to see such passion in their performance from start to finish. Additionally, they made a good effort to interact with the crowd so it would be interesting to see them perform a headline set in front of their own fans because there was a lot of potential to be seen from them.
Up next was the first touring support of the night, Milestones, and they pretty much picked up where Hill Valley High left off. Although the vocals did leave a little to be desired at times, occasionally sounding somewhat grating, it was still a good performance from the pop punk outfit. Their performance took a slight ‘no frills’ approach, but this seemed to work for them – before AshesToAngels’ vocalist joined the band onstage for the final song and suddenly the band gained a lot more movement and momentum from having an extra person onstage with them! As a whole, another promising emerging band in the UK scene.
Main support came from the aforementioned AshesToAngels and although it’s fair to say that musically they aren’t my cup of tea, I have nothing but respect for them after the incredible performance they gave. They put 110% into every aspect of their performance, never stopping for one moment (not even when a guitar strap broke, resulting in the singer crouching down and holding it in place for the rest of the song!) and a really nice touch was the fact that they were really attentive towards the crowd – and particularly towards the small gathering of their own fans at the barrier. It was clear this was a band that cared deeply about their fans, with the singer often going right to the barrier and interacting with people there, and it was very touching to bear witness to – it really gave their set that extra something.
However, the night was always going to belong to headliners Hawthorne Heights and to say it was a special performance from the band was an understatement. If Only You Were Lonely was a powerful release back in 2006, and it’s just as powerful and fresh ten years later, here in 2016. Each song is hard-hitting, emotive and moving, and Hawthorne Heights gave it their all, wanting to give the best performance they could. It was especially nice to hear how grateful they were to be in Chester for the first time, as well as hearing how impressed they were with how beautiful the city was!
Although the room wasn’t packed, there was still a good amount of people (myself included!) singing along to every song from the album, with particular highlights being the spine-tingling rendition of Saying Sorry (always a pleasure to hear), Cross Me Off Your List and Light Sleeper, which frontman JT Woodruff explained had been written for a movie, but was rejected after the band refused to remove the harsh vocals – nice one! However as a whole, it was just nice to hear such a great album performed in full – and it was also nice to see the band clearly having a lot of fun doing so.
Additionally, we were also treated to a new song from their latest EP Hurt (Beneath The Silver Strand) before they performed two old favourites from their debut – but not before getting a request for their track Spark from their latest full-length Zero! After being gently let down, the set resumed with Niki FM, which got perhaps the loudest sing-along of the night, before coming to a conclusion with Ohio Is For Lovers, which was a triumphant end to a terrific set.
All in all, a really fantastic night that was just so much fun – hopefully Hawthorne Heights will be back in Chester soon…!