American Football‘s rise to their emo cult band status will always be an intriguing one. The tale of how a broken up Illinois band with one EP and one album gained such fame is one that would not have been easily accomplished without the power of the internet. The band’s reunion in 2014 was a long time coming, as was the release of their second full-length album. In many ways American Football LP2 had a very familiar vibe, not only with a nod towards the band’s old material but also towards vocalist Mike Kinsella‘s solo moniker Owen. This is why it was only fitting that on their recent UK stint, tthey had none other than Owen as the support act.
Despite having been playing under Owen for longer than the years American Football have been a band put together, most of the crowd at Brighton’s Concorde 2 seemed unfamiliar with the frontman’s solo tracks. Yet with its extremely soft melodies, the lack of singing along didn’t for a second seem out of place at the seaside venue. There is an extreme DIY vibe to the masterful melancholia that Kinsella showcased that night, and this comes as no surprise what with a lot of his material having been home-recorded. In fact, the silence that encapsulated the room only made it easier to appreciate the cathartic lyrics, which were presented against the juxtaposition of a complex acoustic backdrop.
When it was time for American Football to hit the stage, there was a sense of excitement brewing across the room. Murmurs of “I’ve been waiting since I was a teenager to see this band” filled the air, and for many of the overgrown emos it was the ultimate nostalgia trip. Kicking off with the opening track of their latest record “Where Are We Now?” the four-piece shifted back and forth between records, quite a difference from the last time they were over in the UK and played the new record in full for the first half of the set.
While we love the band for their lyrics, there is no denying that the long stretches of instrumental interludes are what makes American Football as great as they are. The guitar lines are impressive, twinkling through in peculiar timing as it morphs into the sonic representation melancholy itself. However, it is Steve Lamos‘ trumpet solos which are truly breathtaking as we witness him catch the audience’s full attention throughout the night.
It is evident that the tracks off LP1 took centre stage – as soon as the familiar melodies of the likes of ‘The Summer Ends’ and ‘Stay Home’ kick in, it is met with excited cheers as people gleefully sang along to the short verses that undoubtedly reminds them of their teenage years. Yet, without fail it is ‘Never Meant’ that proves to be the centre-piece of an American Football set time and time again.
‘Never Meant’ is the closest thing we have to an emo anthem, and rightfully so. Everyone seemed to recognise it from its first note, and in a goose bump filled few minutes, Concorde 2 felt like an impromptu choir. If you ever doubted the impact the band has made on the emo scene, all you need is a quick listen to this one track and the reaction it still garners almost two decades after its release. American Football is no doubt a special band, and we’re glad we no live in a time where experiencing their influential songs live is no longer a far-fetched dream.