Review by Paul H Birch and photos by Mark Lloyd
The tribes are out tonight. With all three stages of The 02 Academy offering something or other ticket touts are spreading themselves thin while smokers are huddled together freezing their knackers off in the snow.
Inside the more petite option that is the Academy 3 five bands are seeking to impress, entertain – and if they can – squeeze in as many numbers between them until the main event.
Excuses you don’t need but apologies are offered regardless for my missing out on opening act Swamp Snake. Suffice to say that if the rest of the bands were anything to go by then they would have ticked the box by fitting into a different sub-category of that vast musical spectrum we have come know as rock (without the roll). Not only were the sounds each band made distinct from each other but their visual apparel and stage craft too.
Fury offer us speed metal and like to thrust their hands in the air aggressively but brim excitedly when shaking people’s hands offstage, Twisted Species opt for a heavier alt-rock grind and their shaven-headed gruff lead vocalist’s equally as polite up at the bar, the symphonic rock of Awake by Design is a little too theatrical for me but offstage their bombastic posturing is left behind and they all look incredibly shy. This is all getting a little too paternal on my part.
But then the audience is filled with older generations and some kids, for families as well as friends have come here to support the bands. A chap starts a conversation, telling me he’s come along with his own family because his mate’s “a relative of one of the bands”. Rock music isn’t his thing “as you can probably tell” he jokes sheepishly, and needlessly. “But I liked the last band, with the piano.” He meant Awake By Design’s synthesiser and sharing the evening’s etiquette I keep my pomposity in check and don’t correct him. One thing’s for sure, no-one going home from here will watch The X-Factor with the same couch-potato acceptance ever again.
It’s not that there’s any great sense of occasion, or even expectation when Diamond Lil line up on stage but it’s apparent the game is being raised.
Vocalist Ellis Wilde paces the stage as the music ruminates; the band dig into a lean muscular metallic strut and surge forward as one, their singer rapping and roaring away until ‘I Want More’ climaxes in a blistering guitar solo.
‘Bottom of a Glass’ follows as they deliver each of their debut EP’s tracks albeit in a different order, with no overdubs but plenty of audience participation.
It’s obvious they’re communicating to the faithful – A flock of girlfriends and possibly one of the band’s moms are enthusiastically down the front, young hairy-sorts headbang until their necks get sore – while the rest of us, stand back smugly having seen it all before, but tapping our feet regardless.
Diamond Lil have a good set of tunes; they can play well individually but more importantly they have confidence in each other’s abilities and it shows both aurally and visually.
When Ellis and guitarist Harry Colley sit down for an unfamiliar acoustic number they lose some of the crowd, but then the band click with the power ballad of ‘Beautiful Nowhere’ and you’re waiting for the smokers to come inside and wave their cigarette lighters. Colley releases a squealing yet melodic solo, underpinned by Jamie Downes’ sympathetic rumbling bass and Austin Miller’s constant Simon Kirke styled time keeping on drums.
After the pounding riff of ‘Council Pusher’ concludes Ellis asks how many in the audience have seen them before and only about half can answer in the affirmative. If that translates into word of mouth EP sales and increased gig attendances that’s great. Mind you, put them on tour in a decent support slot and who knows how far they could go – This is an exciting band, I recommend you get in on the ground floor while you can!
And you can see more shots from the show by clicking here or pressing play below: