The past year has been a huge one for Brighton’s Black Peaks. In addition to the release of their stunning debut album Statues, which topped many end-of-year lists, 2016 was full of incredible moments for the progressive post-hardcore band including playing at Download Festival and opening for Deftones at Wembley. After a pretty solid year of touring and playing festivals, the band finally wrapped up their Statues tour cycle with a string of UK & Ireland dates this January/February, deciding to mark the occasion by playing the album in full at every show. We were lucky enough to be able to catch them at the final date of this tour, at Birmingham’s O2 Academy 3.
The support at this particular show came from Bad Sign and Tigercub, and those who arrived early enough were treated to excellent sets from both bands. Croydon trio Bad Sign got the night off to a good start, warming up the crowd and providing a taster for what was to come later. Their songs mix Deftones-like heavy riffs with big choruses that echo bands like Biffy Clyro and Lonely the Brave, a combination of sounds which seemed to go down well with the Black Peaks fans, and it was clear to see why they had been chosen as support. If the new songs they played are any indication, you should expect to be hearing great things from them in the near future!
Next up were Tigercub who, with their signature grungy pop sound, brought a slightly more mellow mood to the evening, in comparison to the other two bands. Though they generally lacked the ferocity and heaviness of Black Peaks and Bad Sign, they made up for it with catchy, danceable songs with plenty of noisy guitars and bass, with a few killer riffs thrown in for good measure. This was the last night that Tigercub and fellow Brightonians Black Peaks would be sharing the stage for some time, and the appreciation these bands have for each other was made clear several times throughout the show. For instance at one point Tigercub singer Jamie Hall pointed out Black Peaks’ Will Gardner, who had been rocking out side-stage for the majority of Tigercub’s set, and personally thanked him for bringing them out on tour.
Finally, with the crowd suitably warmed up, Black Peaks took to the stage and launched straight into their playthrough of Statues, starting with ‘Glass Built Castles’. Whilst probably their most well-known song and often played at the end of their set, the thunderous opening riff and huge chorus also make it work perfectly as an opener, ensuring the audience are on their feet and screaming along right from the start. Next, the band barely paused before commencing ‘Crooks’, another single from the album, and another big singalong. One result of playing the album in order was some of the ‘bigger’ songs being played relatively early, with the heavier tracks and deeper cuts such as ‘Drones’ and ‘Statues of Shame‘ being kept for later. For many bands, ending the set on less well-known tracks could result in an audience losing interest, but Black Peaks managed to keep the audience enthralled for the entirety of their (roughly) hour-long set.
This was partly due to frontman Will Gardner’s captivating and engaging performance, but also partly because Statues is such a consistently brilliant album. Despite the typically somewhat reserved Sunday night crowd, every song was met with rapturous applause as well as circle pits involving the more enthusiastic members of the audience. The blistering and intense performance from all four members of Black Peaks meant the 10-song set flew by in a blur, and before we knew it they were on to the closing track ‘To Take the First Turn’. This song’s fearsome outro section (featuring ex-Reuben singer Jamie Lenman on the album and sung as a duet between Gardner and guitarist Joe Gosney at live shows) made for an intense and climactic finale to the gig, leaving the audience in awe but also understandably eager for more. However, despite a few chants for “one more song”, the band did not return for an encore, probably in need of a well-earned rest. Regardless, no one left the room disappointed, having witnessed one of the finest debut albums in recent history performed in its entirety, possibly for the last time.
We’ve seen Black Peaks several times already, but they seem to get better and better every time. This show may mark the end of a significant chapter in their career, but their story is only just beginning and it looks set to be one hell of an adventure.