The 1,200 capacity O2 Academy in Liverpool could easily seem an intimidating venue to any young support or headlining act. Today was definitely not the case. As Blaenavon walked out to rapturous applause from the near-full capacity crowd, the Hampshire-based three piece launched into an animalistic, powerful drum intro for their 2016 single ‘Hell is My Head’, with frontman Ben Gregory viscerally pounding his guitar against his torso. As the song took off they set a precedent for what was a high octane and pulsating support slot to headliners, Sundara Karma.
When listening to Blaenavon on record, I’ve been eager to see whether the elevation of their choruses holds the same gravitas live. This was plain to see as the crowd sang back their recent singles ‘My Bark is Your Bite’ and ‘Orthodox Man’. The atmosphere began to creep up with every lyric, even drawing a wry smile from Gregory’s face. This draws his attention away from the blood his guitar drew from his hand, which the singer shyly notes the crowd of. Though audience interaction was limited, this gave off a charming vulnerability of a young band on the rise, whose performance by contrast had a raw, tribal energy.
As their set seamlessly sowed infectious hook to infectious hook the band came into their own as the audience continued to reciprocate. The band’s setlist suited the occasion well, opting out of playing more sombre tracks such as ‘You Pretty Little Thing’ and ‘Something Boring’, as they warmed the crowd up to great effect.
Blaenavon’s most impressive aspect for me is their versatility. This is epitomised in the penultimate song of their set ‘I Will Be the World’, where the gentle instrumentation and dulcet vocal tones at the start of the track eventually erupt into a sonic firework, spawning near hysteria amongst the crowd.
Their set’s crescendo, 2013 single ’Prague’ follows a similar path. Speaking to Gregory shortly after their set we spoke how for a three piece they have a very distinctive rhythmic dynamic which are complimented by his softer, arpeggiated guitar melodies. When done subtly this helps give a platform for the fragility in Gregory’s voice, shown in ‘Prague’ as he confides in his audience “And it’s you I said, you keep on running through my head, I swear it so”. Though, when Gregory decides to step down on his effects pedals and scream that lyric back as the song and set draw to a triumphant close, they show off the light and dark of their sound.
Blaenavon are definitely a band to keep your eye on in 2017, with their much anticipated debut album ‘That’s Your Lot’ scheduled for release on April 7th.
Blaenavon are back in Liverpool at Studio 2 Parr Street on April 4th for their UK headline tour.