Live Review: The Front Bottoms and Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – KOKO, London – 16/02/2016

The Front Bottoms shouldn’t be here. The Front Bottoms don’t have a right to be here. The Front Bottoms probably don’t know how they have got here. From kicking off as just a dick about between two mates writing songs about their broken hearts and anxious encounters all the way up to selling out the Koko in Camden Town is the sort of thing that fairytales are made up of, yet here we are. With a devoted following to boot and latest album ‘Back On Top’ still winning over ears the world over, tonight has all the makings of being legendary.

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First up though, the wonderful Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band. The king of jaunty punk is on top form musically and physically tonight with his layered and intelligent songs filling the big space before him while also thrashing around the stage with no disregard for his surroundings. A few heads in the crowd nod, a few arms wave as well but there is a resounding atmosphere of respect towards a wholly exhilarating and talented musician. (3.5/5)

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The roar that meets the lights dimming for the main event though is deafening. The sing-along to ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion that plays as The Front Bottoms walk out is even louder. Frontman Brian Sella takes centre stage, suited but shoeless, and acknowledges the masses before him with a nod of his head and sip of his beer before tearing straight into the heroic ‘Skeleton’. From here on in, the whole room is a scene of chaos. The floor swells and spirals with mosh pits, constant jumping and sing-alongs that reach the peak of intensity while everyone in the stands bounces and nods with unrestricted happiness. There is almost a cult feeling to the punters who have made the trip out tonight, each one here for their own deep-set connection to the men playing their skins off on stage and making the most of every second they have with them.

From ‘Flashlight’ (featuring an excitable Kevin Devine on tambourine) to ‘Cough It Out’, ‘Au Revoir’ to ‘Laugh Till I Cry’, the band deals out the goods with impassioned awkwardness and down-to-the-bone tightness. Sella looks out into the crowd with sheer disbelief on more than one occasion, trying to comprehend the scale of the show that he is taking a part in while also reaching into the darkest corners of his persona to really push across what these songs mean to him and the band. The onstage banter is kept to a minimum so there is more room for music as ‘West Virginia’ is dealt out with jittery and unbridled anguish while ‘Plastic Flowers’ is met with an almost choral reaction. With each passing song, the grins on the faces filling the venue stretch further and further. Not one person is stood still and not one person wants the evening to end, and that’s pretty much as good as live music can get.

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Closing the show with a dramatic reading from a Star Wars novel, an skin-tingling run through of ’Twelve Feet Deep’ and an all-consuming last gasp showing of ‘Twin Size Mattress, The Front Bottoms biggest victory on British soil is complete. An inch perfect performance matched with a crowd overflowing with the most infectious of vibes and cheek aching enthusiasm make this a night that the band or the congregation won’t be forgetting any time soon. Where do we go from here though? Do these rag-tag misfits have the legs to sell out an even bigger venue? Is there enough life in these songs about getting high and hanging out to raise the room off arenas? Only time will tell and whatever the outcome, it’s going to be a bloody fun journey. (4.5/5)


The Front Bottoms links: Facebook|Twitter

Words by Jack Rogers (@JackMRog). Photos by Jade Till and taken at Leeds University on 05/02/2016.


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