Papa Roach at the Academy, Dublin – Review
Papa Roach – Academy, Dublin – December 6th
I’m going to have to admit before this review that I didn’t prepare or research the way that I normally would for any show I go to. I haven’t listened to anything Papa Roach have put out in about ten years, and before this gig, have probably listened to a handful of their songs since then too. But when a surprise pair of tickets turned up on the night, I just couldn’t say no to such nostalgia.
Papa Roach are a band that takes me back, reminiscing on a time when these guys, Limp Bizkit, P.O.D., Linkin Park and the rest of their nu-metal brethren were the epitome of heaviness to a large sector of 11-to-15-year-old schoolchildren in this country. ‘Infest’ was probably one of the first albums I ever bought. It’s an unfortunate accident of being born in the late 80’s that our modern heavy music was dominated by these groups, but the memories of the pure adolescent enthusiasm of the time are powerful, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy every minute of rocking out with my friends to that 2000-2003 Kerrang! playlist every few years after a few cans.
Opening band on the night, American Fangs, proved to be a pleasant surprise of aggressive but upbeat alternative rock, reminiscent of a place somewhere between Alice in Chains and Torche. Though the audience is largely unmoved, their style of rock, which includes dual percussions – one on a conventional kit, the other on an odd combination of some toms, a keg, trash can lids, and pipes – wind up being a tasty appetiser to the headliner.
As Papa Roach come onstage and kick off the show with opening track “Burn”, it becomes quite apparent this is going to be fun evening. The first thing that strikes me is simply how up-for-it the fans are. Maybe I’ve been to a few too many of the wrong gigs over the past few months or years, but this isn’t particularly common. I’ve been to many metal gigs in my life and still consider myself a fan of a genre that would disparage bands like this. It’s tough to admit it, but the energy at a lot of those shows just doesn’t compare to this one – Irish metal fans simply don’t cut loose like this.
As they move through their set, the disparity between their heavier earlier stuff and their newer alternative rock sound becomes apparent, but the songs don’t rock any less than that old stuff does. I assumed the place would be filled with mid-20’s lads reminiscing like myself, but the crowd actually seem to know all these new songs, and some of them aren’t half bad. Nonetheless, they include fun renditions of some classics early in the set, “Blood Brothers” and “Between Angels and Insects” for good measure.
The now-37 singer Jacoby Shaddix stands atop a podium above the front row, headbanging and jumping around, gesturing wildly a la Bruce Dickenson. There’s something both inspiring and endearing about his vitality, the joy he seems to have in being onstage playing these songs, how he shakes each crowd surfer’s hand as they are pushed off to the side by security. The quality of the music isn’t always top-notch, but it occurs to me through the show how maybe all you need to pull off a gig like this is a heavy groove and a singer who gives a shit.
The crowd waver towards the middle of the set, but they revitalise as the hits stack up in the final portion – ‘Born With Nothing, Die with Everything’, ‘Scars’, ‘Still Swingin’’ all evoke a strong reaction. But they save the best for the last song of the night, with their classic ‘Last Resort’ sending the house into a frenzy, opening the kind of pit a 14-year-old me would have loved.
So, shame on me for writing off a band, expecting some tired performance from a group just in it for the money, I was proven totally wrong. But I think perhaps my favourite thing about the night is simply how there isn’t a hint of pretentiousness about it. Nobody gets street cred or bonus hipster obscurity points for liking Papa Roach. People went that night because they loved the band and wanted to rock out, and to be fair to them, Papa Roach duly delivered.
Review by Conor Cosgrave