Despite being three albums into their career and establishing a reputation for their formidable live shows, tonight marked the third date of Letlive’s first ever UK headline tour, following numerous high profile support slots on these shores, and the first real chance for their growing cult following to get a live taste of the band’s latest album The Blackest Beautiful.
Having arrived at the venue late due to the early curfew there was no chance to catch opening local band Aurora so first up were Californian four-piece The American Scene. With their 90s stoner-rock, reminiscent of The Pixies, The American Scene felt like an odd selection for the tour compared to the other acts, and unfortunately this was also evident when looking around the sparsely packed room during their set. The band themselves were tight and clearly into what they were doing throughout a set drawing mostly from their 2012 release Safe For Now, however a lack of crowd interaction meant that The American Scene’s set did not connect as much as it could have done with the right audience.
In complete contrast to The American Scene, Night Verses very quickly won over the crowd and had them in the palms of their hands for the majority of their set. Drawing from their debut album Lift Your Existence and previous EP Out Of The Sky, the casual passer-by could have assumed that Night Verses were tonight’s headliners. Vocalist Douglas Robinson’s boundless energy and drummer Aric Improta’s (seen in the video of Letlive’s ‘Younger’) theatrics were complimented by Nick Depirro and Kelly Herrera’s slick guitar and bass rhythms, which gave the audience plenty to see as well as hear. With a sound akin to Deftones and headliners Letlive, Night Verses left little doubt in the minds of onlookers that they are a name to look out for in the future.
Tonight however was all about one band, Letlive. Dave Brubeck’s ‘They Say I Look Like God’ echoed from the speakers before the band took the stage, opening with ‘Banshee (Ghost Flame)’ off their recent album with frontman Jason Aalon Butler making his entrance by storming across the stage and tearing a speaker cabinet to the ground, setting the tone for the evening, with the floor opening up into one giant sea of flailing limbs. Never one to shy away from drama and contrast to the punk scene they were born out of, it took three songs for Butler to get poetic, introducing ‘Dreamers Disease’ by screaming “They Say I got a disease, they say that I’m a dreamer” repeatedly, followed by a cover of Black Flag’s ‘Fix Me’, which was met with mass appreciation from every corner of the packed room.
The set continued relentlessly with the band providing a tight, relatively calm soundtrack to Butler’s inexhaustible static energy, which saw him scale the stage and even climb into the roof rafters hanging above the audience before dropping in. A technical issue midway through ‘Empty Elvis’ when the microphone cut out couldn’t stop him either; he simply went into the pit.
‘Pheromone Cvlt’ provided one of many highlights of the set, with Butler introducing it as a song about “a lie I told too many girls, but Birmingham, I love you” and with that, a song that on the record is dark and brooding, turned into a completely different animal live. Fan favourite ‘Muther’ featured Jessica Calvesbert of opening act Aurora on guest vocals, leading into the closing track of Letlive’s last album, ‘Day 54’, which saw the biggest sing-a-long of the night, with Butler once again jumping into the crowd and letting others join him on the microphone as he made his way around practically the entire room.
The main set ended with Aalon Butler lying on the guitar cabinet he had once again thrown on the floor, strumming a guitar, before the band came on to rejoin him and blast through ‘Le Prologue’, ‘The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion’ and ‘Renegade ‘86’, with the energy of the band replicated in the crowd and the pit for one last time.
Letlive shows have justifiably earned a reputation for being unpredictable occasions, and tonight was clear evidence of that. The band lived up to and surpassed all that is said about them live, the songs from The Blackest Beautiful came to life in a way that isn’t possible on record and Jason Aalon Butler edged closer to modern-day icon status. The raw-energy of the performance, the adoration from the audience, and the mutual appreciation between band and fans was truly a sight to behold and an experience to savour. In summary, Letlive at the Birmingham Asylum was the kind of show you’ll tell your grandkids about.