Hello and welcome to our O2 Academy August highlights. We hope you were a part of the action this month, and if you weren’t around, where were you?! Here are some of the things you missed…
You didn’t have to be a front row fan to realise how truly special Muse’s Reading and Leeds warm-up show was. When the trio announced their intimate O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig back in July, their intention to make it magical quickly became crystal clear; not only would the event benefit The Passage, but the set list would be entirely audience curated. The result was a rather obscure torrent of fan favourites that encouraged a huge reaction from the crowd and included ‘Plug In Baby’, ‘Knights of Cydonia’ ‘Dead Star’ and a live debut of ‘Easily’. The show – which was live streamed on Instagram - raised a total of £200,000 for charity and was so hotly anticipated that fans were spotted from as early as 10am… the previous day!
Whilst on the subject of early morning queues, Korn fans made themselves comfortable on the O2 Academy Brixton’s steps from before 9am in an effort to guarantee the all-important barrier spot. A sacrifice that certainly paid off the moment the nu-metal heroes stepped out on stage and tore through their Reading and Leeds warm-up set list, which featured singles ‘Rotting in Vain’, ‘Y’all Want a Single’, their 1994 hit ‘Blind’ and, of course, the classic ‘Freak on a Leash’. With an extensive lightshow, the Korn logo proudly projected across the stage and a chasm of energy from both the audience and the band, it’s safe to say Jonathan Davis and co. made sure we knew they were back.
And smashing it since 1980 are American punk rockers, Bad Religion, who dominated O2 Forum Kentish Town and O2 Academy Bristol earlier on in August. Needless to say, their whole performance was delivered with an unrivalled energy and emotion so real and raw that it, ironically, bordered on a divine experience. The legends kicked things off with their Recipe for Hate single, ‘American Jesus’, before subsequently firing off 26 more songs – including ‘Sorrow’ and ‘Wrong Way Kids’ – and closing the set with their 1996 single, ‘Punk Rock Song’.
Did someone say rock? Reminds us of a very special musical collaboration between Sublime’s Eric Wilson and guitarist, Rome Ramirez and the time they brought their unique blend of reggae, alt rock, hip hop and dub to a number of our venues. It was O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, however, that especially felt the love when competition winners were invited to do what all musical fans only dream of doing… meeting the band! So while our ‘VIPs’ were eating Mexican street food courtesy of DEL74 and hanging out with Sublime with Rome, standard ticket holders queued up to hear Sublime covers, ‘Date Rape’ and ‘Santeria’, ‘You Better Listen’ and ‘Panic’ live.
O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire also hosted Kate Nash not only once, but twice after the pop sensation announced two-dates in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of her debut album Made of Bricks. Most recently known for her role in the Netflix original wrestling comedy series, Glow, the singer-songwriter quickly squashed any suspicions of it being a purely nostalgic performance. Instead, she made the most of her self-funded tour – which also included O2 Academy Bristol and O2 Ritz Manchester - by putting a slight twist on the tried and tested recipe of playing an album in full, by instead teasing ‘Foundations’ and saving the full rendition for later, before dipping into ‘Mouthwash, ‘We Get On’ and ‘Pumpkin Soup’ – the latter of which featured a well-choreographed shimmy.
Marmozets also popped up in our August calendar with gigs at O2 Academy Oxford and Arts Club Liverpool as they were welcomed back by an army of fans who were obviously very eager to have powerhouse vocalist Becca Macintyre and her troupe back at it again, and they didn’t come empty handed either. Tooled up with a treasure trove of alt-rock bangers and brand new single, ‘Play’, the West Yorkshire five-piece was ablaze with renewed passion and an energy that wasn’t all too different from their Reading & Leeds set (read about it here).
Another band with an abundance of energy, are New Orleans alt-rockers, Mutemath. After joining forces with Twenty One Pilots in 2016 for a collaborative compilation, TØPxMM (The MUTEMATH Sessions), the quartet came to our shores geared with a bag of songs and an… air mattress? That’s right, vocalist and keyboardist, Paul Meany, crowd -surfed on an inflatable mattress, which is rumoured to be a tour tradition of theirs, starting when they performed at the House of Blues in America around six years ago.
Niall Horan, a name that once graced the world stages as part of One Direction; but not this time. The Irish singer-songwriter went solo and took to the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire stage with little more than an acoustic guitar and a mic stand. Showcasing his ‘Flicker Sessions’ set with a twinkle in his eye, we heard his next single ‘Too Much To Ask’, a guitar-free version of his recent smash hit, ‘Slow Hands’ (where the crowd were also treated to some magic dance moves) and, of course, a sprinkling of nostalgia with a One Direction favourite, ‘Fool’s Gold’. Support on the night also brought a Celtic feel, provided by Irish duo Picture This (who themselves are set for their own headline show at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire this November!) Tasked with warming up the crowd for Niall with tracks like ‘Take My Hand’ and ‘Never Change’ from their debut album, Picture This gave us a brief glimpse of things to come later on this year!
Last, but certainly not least, and continuing the Irish theme, are fellow Irishmen, The Script. Even though you’d usually find them touring arenas, the trio decided to play an intimate sold-out show at O2 Academy Birmingham to promote their latest album, Freedom Child. Dipping effortlessly in and out of their huge catalogue of hits, adoring fans were treated to an up-close and personal set, as lead singer Danny O’Donogue performed parts of ‘Paint The Town Green’ and ‘Good Ol’ Days’ from amongst the crowd. Powerless to stop the energy, by the end of the night a thousand-strong audience rendition was in full voice for ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’ and ‘Hall of Fame’, as well as their new single, ‘Rain’ which allowed O’Donogue to momentarily step back from the mic and soak up the atmosphere making it a night to remember.
You can’t possibly mention August, without a nod to two of the biggest music festivals in the UK; exactly why we’ve been consumed with all Reading & Leeds and V Festival related artists this past month. Queue Queue J Hus, Rat Boy, PVRIS, Loyle Carner, Neck Deep, Blaenavon, LANY, Lethal Bizzle and Anne-Marie, George Ezra, Chase and Status, Clean Bandit, JP Cooper, Scouting For Girls and Yungen - all of which you can listen to by hitting play on our ‘August’ playlist below.
The month also welcomed Brand New’s latest album, Science Fiction, and so, it was only natural that we dropped everything and played it on full blast… and on repeat.
With so many huge bands in and out of our doors, it’s easy to forget those bands that are out there, tirelessly working their way up to the top who deserve your attention. This month, we’re putting the spotlight on two alternative bands, Chapter & Verse and Wars.
UNMISSABLE GIGS THIS SEPTEMBER: