Live review : Architects + Beartooth @ Victoria Warehouse, Manchester on January 14th 2019
Tonight feels like a graduation, a celebration, an inauguration and perhaps even an ascension. After fifteen long years, Architects, always the bridesmaid and near the bride of British metal, have finally morphed into the slick stadium bothering juggernaut they always threatened to be. But before I pour platitudes on the newly crowned masters of our metallic world, there is the small matter of Beartooth (due to the indescribably long time it takes a three year to consume sausage and beans I miss openers Polaris. They could well be the greatest band in the multiverse, however due to my sons propensity for eating one bean at a time I will never know).
Now I am not sure what has happened but the Beartooth I remember from 2016’s rather grand “Aggressive” and the same year’s equally excellent Download appearance were a heavy, gnarly and anguished bunch with passion, piss and vinegar flowing through their veins. Tonight's Beartooth seem to have traded in the angst and anger for a pop punk approach that reminds me of Madina Lake or even, god forbid, You and Me at Six. Now if I was back in my early twenties I am sure I would be joyfully screaming along with gusto to tracks like ‘Manipulation’ and ‘Disease’ as is the vast majority of this obviously up for it sold out crowd. But I’m 46 and to these jaded ears, Beartooth seem to have become safe and distinctly mainstream. The venomous and the dangerous Beartooth that I knew have gone and has been replaced by saccharine Fisher Price, my first rock band. Even an impassioned and admirable speech by Caleb Shomo regarding his daily experience of living with mental health condition can't for me save a disappointingly light and fluffy set.
Tonight is the moment I suspect Architects never thought they would see and their gratitude and disbelief is obvious in every moment of their utterly magnificent set. For the uneducated, Architects may seem to have come out nowhere, but theirs is a story of struggle, personal tragedy and misguided changes in direction. It was only with 2016 phenomenal 'All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us' that they finally seemed to have the world domination in sight and then band's central force, Tom Searle tragically lost his three year battle with skin cancer. For many other act,s that would have been the final straw but Architects have channeled their loss and anger into an emotionally raw live performance that feels powerfully passionate and incredibly genuine.
Architects are clearly not taking their lofty new status for granted and have packed their show with every single arena stable. There is smoke, fire, lasers, strobes, pillars of steam, confetti a go-go and an absolutely stunning light show. In fact, the only thing missing is the word Architects in ten foot flaming letters, but maybe they are holding that back for the inevitable Festival headline shows (I'm putting my money on Download 2020). But for all the fanciful trimmings, tonight is about five singular-mind driven musicians that have never compromised or given up. All five members pour everything they have into tonight’s show putting in an impassioned and crushingly heavy performance filled with both pathos and conviction. Sam's thank yous during the encore may be drawn out but they are utterly heartfelt as this is a band that has fought tooth and nail for this moment and it is an utter joy to see them unquestionably fulfill their potential as one of the biggest and best bands in our universe.
Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki