Having previously sold out venues twice the size of the Kentish Town Forum, it’s hard to know how the current Of Mice and Men has come to the place it’s in now. Unfortunately for the London leg of the tour there are a number of conflicting shows happening across the city, but let’s forget about those and concentrate on the Forum.
Australian openers Hands Like Houses start the night off on a high setting with a set largley comprising material from latest album Dissonants. Their set shows that this band are set to headline venues like these themselves, as tracks like ‘Perspectives’ and ‘I Am’ pack a massive punch and encompass the whole venue, getting the crowd moving from the front to the back. As ‘I Am’ opens a sing-along chorus, it shows that it isn’t just the headliners people are here to see. Closing track ‘Introduced Species’ is a stand out, and one which perhaps sums up the band’s abilities perfectly- the pummeling drums keep the track heavy yet at the same time there’s more groove and dare (we say ‘swagger’) to get people on their feet. The set is short but sweet, a perfectly crafted mixture of old and new tracks ready to pull in the new fans.
Crown the Empire are handed the baton to keep this Friday evening heavy and they deliver a great set, even if the vocals are drowned out by instruments a little to begin with. Co-frontman and rhythm guitarist David Escamilla has taken a step back from this tour for ‘personal reasons’, meaning the band have even more to prove tonight. A song or so in though and the issues resolve, showing a mixture of tracks ready to incite carnage and pits to the max. The all out confidence of frontman Andrew Velazquez isn’t perceived as arrogance but as a true belief in what the band are doing. Crown The Empire don’t do things be halves, as tracks like ‘Zero and ‘Weight Of The World’ get the audience jumping along, while the piercing screams of ‘The Fallout’ see the crowd caught hook line and sinker.
Considering Of Mice & Men cancelled most of the European leg of the tour, it means that illness must have been imminent for Austin Carlisle as he took to the stage in London, but we’re given no indication that he’s suffering. Coming straight in with a track from their newest album ‘Pain’ that whips the crowd into an all out frenzy from the get go, with crowd surfers flying around and bodies slamming into each other in pits around the venue. On record Cold World might not have the same intensity or raw heaviness as Restoring Force and The Flood but live there’s plenty of scope with tracks. Both ‘Relentless’ and ‘Real’ make a massive impact live as the heavy riffs by Alan Ashby burst throughout the venue, giving the tracks some welly behind them.
The second the twinkling notes of ‘Away’ echo around the venue phones and lighters light up the room as the sombre ballad gives tonight a sense of emotion, of unresolved urgency. With such a strong back catalogue, Of Mice and Men have plenty of tracks to choose from, and strong performances of ‘Broken Generation’ and ‘Would You Still Be There’ show that despite the drop in venue size this tour the band are still at the heights they’ve always been. Singalongs come when the band ferociously run through ‘The Depths’ as bodies collide and we wonder why the hell we chose to stand so close to the front as we cling on for dear life. Austin’s face reflects the complete euphoria staring back at him as he stands centre stage. After The Flood Reissue a few tracks make an appearance which haven’t been heard live since 2014 ,but regardless of the track the reaction from the crowd is exactly the same.
Their journey may not have always run smoothly but each and every member of the band’s musicianship is on point. Of Mice and Men mean business and nothing is going to stop them.