Opening band Judgement (8/10) were rather fantastic. They were nice and heavy, with some monstrous riffs, and it was an all-round fantastic performance. Despite the crowd being fairly small when they got onstage, they still managed to own the place and really warmed things up well. Although their frontman looked a little unsure of himself on a few occasions, it was an overall strong set and really started off the night well.
The second band to take to the stage was the brilliant Constructor (9/10), who were ridiculously great. Opening with Glory, they really tore the place apart and frontman Ben’s vocals really packed a punch. Something I really like about this band is how utterly tight their live show is, with each member responding to each other really well throughout every performance I see them give. Also, I have to admit that seeing Ben fall down a gap between the stage and monitors was highly entertaining, even if I did feel a little mean for laughing! They finished in true Constructors style with Ben and Simon playing from the crowd. A great set all round.
Unfortunately, things took a nose dive at When We Were Wolves (2/10). As I mentioned in my last review of them, I have a lot of problems with the blinding lights they take onstage with them, which for some reason they point towards the crowd and flash with a great intensity at regular intervals. This show was no exception to this, and I wound up having to leave the room during the last song to get a glass of water and have a sit down as I could feel the beginnings of a migraine starting to occur.
The worst thing is that this band make tremendously good music – I own their recent EP and it’s a stunning release – but owing to these lights, I honestly can’t look at them without getting a headache (and I surely can’t be the only one). I’m an avid gig-goer and love being able to see great music in a live environment, so it’s a little maddening that I really can’t appreciate this band. Honestly, the only way I can “enjoy” this band is if I stare at the floor or stand directly behind a really tall person. This band could do the Macarena, get stark naked or even chuck money into the crowd and I’d be none the wiser. Do I know what this band’s stage show is like? Not in the slightest, and being brutally honest, if an element of a band’s performance gives me a migraine, then it is not a performance I will enjoy on any sort of level, even if the music does happen to be good.
However The Smoking Hearts (10/10) brought things right back up again. Now, I will whole-heartedly admit that this is a band I would consider to be one of my favourites, but this is by no means a biased review (I pride myself on my honesty and never mince my words when it comes to live shows). This is a band whose live performance I instantly fell in love with upon seeing them for the first time, which culminated in a guitar getting a broken headstock before getting bashed about the stage! Every time I see them, they just blow me away and this was no exception.
After they’d finished setting up, frontman Ben asked the person in charge of their sound to play any song they liked from one of the band member’s iPods (my apologies but I forgot who it was!), which resulted in them coming on to the hilarious choice of California Girls by Katy Perry! Of course, after having a bit of a dance on the stage to the aforementioned song, they swiftly launched into a fantastic rendition of their latest single, Destroy. Owing to this being my all-time favourite of theirs, I sang along to this with much enthusiasm and quite honestly, when Ben actually handed the microphone for me to scream “this is time to destroy” into it for a fair amount of time, it was a very proud moment for me.
Once the song finished, he commented on how the crowd just weren’t getting into it was much as they usually did in Bridgend, and I certainly agreed with him. This was my third time seeing them at Hobos and they’re always carnage-filled shows that are always described as gigs you simply had to be there for, so admittedly it was strange that everyone seemed a little subdued.
Despite the fact the crowd were less enthusiastic than usual, they powered on through the best set I’d ever seen them play, filled with enough energy to power a small town! One of the things I like about this band is their standout style and the way all five of them fit together so seamlessly. Ben’s vocals complement the rest of the band’s noise perfectly, drummer Matty’s fast and energetic drumming style is second to none, the double-attack and stunning riffs from guitarists Barker and Nobba are phenomenal and seeing bassist Calvin doing some intense headbanging whilst seemingly still able to hit every note is truly a sight to behold. The Smoking Hearts really are a band you need to see live in order to fully appreciate, as the movement and musicianship from all five members from start to finish is simply fantastic.
At one point, Ben asked the crowd to say yes if they were enjoying themselves, which was met with a fairly loud response, and then asked the crowd to say no if they weren’t. The room was initially silent for but then one lone person shouted no, to which he responded that he liked their honesty, but he didn’t really give a damn!
The set finished with their usual crowd invasion, with Calvin throwing his mic stand into the crowd before getting down to the audience level. This time, Ben went all the way to the back of the room and as I was watching him climb up onto the surface next to the sound desk, out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the guitarists – whose face I unfortunately didn’t catch! – actually leap from the stage with a tremendous amount of energy before barrelling into the crowd. It ended with Calvin actually on his knees as he screamed into a half-fallen over mic stand and it was a fantastic end to a tremendous set.
Despite the slight lack of crowd participation, The Smoking Hearts still played a mindblowing set and it was a pleasure to watch and move about to. Quite simply, if you missed this show, then you missed out big time. Check these guys out because you certainly won’t be disappointed.