Submitted by guest contributor Collette Tesauro
“Jump. Crowd-surf. Punch somebody.” This was Beartooth’s mandate to the audience as they took the stage on April 1, 2017 for the American Nightmare Tour in Seattle, WA.
As the night’s opener, Beartooth had the daunting task of establishing themselves as a band that could hold their own alongside veteran outfits Underoath and Bring Me the Horizon. Beartooth’s song “Aggressive,” the title-track from the band’s 2016 sophomore release, kicked off their set to a receptive audience at Seattle’s WaMu Theater. The center of the crowd quickly opened up into a mosh pit at front man Caleb Shomo’s urging. Beartooth continued their set with “Body Bag,” a track from their first LP, Disgusting, before playing “Sick of Me” to a chorus of voices singing along.
Shomo asked the audience how many were seeing Beartooth live for the first time. A mass of hands raised in response, but it would have been impossible to discern otherwise. The band continued to play fan favorites from both of their full-length albums for the rest of the set, eventually closing with “Hated.” Beartooth’s high-energy, engaging performance left an impression. The young band had earned their place on the tour.
Underoath was next, blinding the audience with spotlights before beginning their set. I still had spots in my eyes as the band sauntered onto the stage, opening with “Everyone Looks So Good from Here” immediately followed by “In Regards to Myself,” two tracks from the band’s 2006 hit album Define the Great Line. A perceptible increase in enthusiasm followed vocalist Spencer Chamberlain’s announcement that they were going to play an old track next. The crowd roared as the guitars started the quick strum of “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door.”
Underoath’s set catered to fans both new and old as they mixed old favorites with new tracks. Expectedly, their older hits won the night. I was pulled with the rest of the crowd into a happy nostalgia as we sang and screamed along to “A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White” and “Reinventing Your Exit,” perceptibly raising decibel levels in the venue.
The performance was complemented by lighting effects that have become the norm for bands at Underoath’s level. Fans took notice as their hands in the air were quickly accompanied by an increasing number of cell phones, trying to imprint a permanent record of the night. Underoath closed with “Writing on the Walls,” one their most well-known tracks, and the crowd was not disappointed.
Fans who earlier in the night had rushed an empty barrier, blatantly disregarding security’s directive to “stop running” in a desperate attempt to find the perfect spot, were rewarded for their efforts as preparations began for Bring Me the Horizon. The stage crew removed tarps revealing multi-tiered platforms. It became evident the show was headed to yet another level of spectacle as giant LCD screens replaced a logo banner. The band opened with “Happy Song,” a shower of confetti decorating the crowd as bright lights flashed.
Bring Me the Horizon’s 11-song set took the audience on an adventure. Song-specific graphics and video clips displayed behind them on the LCDs, assaulting the senses by combining stark and surprising visuals with the band’s discography. Midway through their set, Bring Me the Horizon slowed things down, moving from “Avalanche” into “The Best Is Yet to Come,” before shifting back into the faster-paced “Shadow Moses.”
As the set drew to a close, the group announced they were playing their last song and thanked everyone before playing “Throne.” However, an encore was inevitable, with hits “Drown” and “Oh No” still unplayed. The audience had to earn the band’s return, it seemed, and the effort was rewarded. Bring Me the Horizon returned, playing a three-song encore and ultimately ending the night with “Drown,” showering fans with confetti for a second time before exiting amid cheers from the now-satiated crowd.
Ultimately, Beartooth won the night for me. They established that they have the skills and commitment to continue to be a force in the metalcore scene. Not only did they hold their own alongside veterans Underoath and Bring Me the Horizon, both of whom have been playing live shows for longer than Beartooth has been a band, they did so without gimmicks or special effects. Although I walked in already a fan, I left certain that I would pay to see them perform again.
On the other hand, Underoath and Bring Me the Horizon’s performances did not resonate with me as strongly as I had expected. Although both performances had all the elements to be great, I found myself feeling more like an observer than becoming wholly immersed in the show.
Looking back, I find it difficult to pinpoint the reason. I think it was partially because I had higher expectations for these two veteran acts, but I also recognize the visual effects pulled me out of their performances. I found myself observing the crowd and watching the displays, rather than losing myself in the music. For someone who enjoys live shows as a means of establishing a connection to the performers, the extra effects were a detractor.
I am by no means suggesting these bands are incapable of forging connections to an audience, and certainly many in the crowd left feeling fulfilled. But, for me, the magic was lost in the lights.
Collette Tesauro is a Jersey-girl turned SoCal transplant. She devotes her free time to experiencing music in all its forms and traveling as often as possible in an effort to satiate her wanderlust. FACEBOOK | SPOTIFY