Twin Atlantic at The Academy – Review
When talking about Twin Atlantic, it’s become increasingly difficult not to mention the ‘B’ word at some point in the discussion, so it’s probably best to get it out of the way early on. The shadow of Biffy Clyro looms large over the band despite their attempts to plow their own furrow over the course of their career thus far. Both bands come from Scotland, both have photogenic frontmen whose ‘rough around the edges’ style vocals are delivered in a thick Scottish accent, both have a fondness for caveman-like facial hair, both are as adept with crunching metal riffs as they are with soft acoustic singalongs, and both started their careers producing slabs of riff heavy rock before gradually maturing into arena-friendly pop rock with huge choruses. So no similarities then… Taking all of these factors into account, Twin Atlantic have always had a challenge on their hands to carve out their own identity and break free of the association with the band who are, currently, Scotland’s biggest musical export.
Touring in support of latest album Great Divide, released in September of last year, following on from their breakthrough record Free and early mini album Vivarium, it sees the band retaining their signature heavy guitar sounds, whilst also taking a more pop focussed approach and highlights their lofty ambitions. Taking to the stage to the intro sounds of Brian Eno’s ambient masterpiece ‘An Ending’, the band launch straight into ‘Make a Beast of Myself’, one of the strongest crowd pleasers in their catalogue. It serves as the perfect opener with a sky-scraping chorus that gets the gathered crowd onside from the outset. Using such a signature song, once pivotal to their live set, from the beginning illustrates the band’s confidence in their newer material. New album track ‘Hold On’ follows, evoking mass singalongs and crowd bouncing. However after such a pulsating opening, the energy does wane. ‘Apocalyptic Renegade’ and early track ‘Lightspeed’ lack the pulsating energy of the opening songs. This fluctuating level of urgency becomes a theme for the night. While there are many devotees in attendance lapping up every word from the band, there is, at times, a strangely subdued atmosphere tonight, particularly odd for the Academy on a Saturday night. While Biffy Clyro have always had a heart of darkness at the core of their best work, and a way with cryptic lyrical passages set to unique time signatures, Twin Atlantic have a youthful bounce and simplicity to their music. They openly embrace the poppier side of rock and have a great time doing so. Nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Fall into the Party’, with its metal-like intro and powerhouse drumming, it’s as heavy a pop song you’re likely to hear, serving as a perfect snapshot of Twin Atlantic’s sound, with a gargantuan chorus which begs to be played in spaces much larger than The Academy. However, once again the flow of the set is disrupted by some weaker material with ‘Eight Days’ and ‘What Is Light, Where Is Laughter‘ guilty of derailing the momentum.
However, following this mid set lull, the band take everything up a level with the stunningly dark build-up of ‘Yes, I Was Drunk’ eliciting a huge reaction, followed up by the raucous riff-tastic ‘Edit Me’. ‘Crashland’ and ‘Oceans’ showcase a separate side of the band, with frontman Sam McTrusty switching to his acoustic guitar to show how versatile a band Twin Atlantic really are, as guitarist Barry McKenna also switches from his electric guitar to the cello. The singer’s voice stripped bare amid the sparse arrangement brims with passion and the performance of ‘Crashland’ in particular is one of the highlights of the set.
Just as the show threatens to lose momentum again, the band launch into ‘Free’ and the room is bouncing once more. Like every song tonight, it is delivered with flawless precision, the band locked in together as tight as two coats of paint. The Snow Patrol-esque ‘Brothers and Sisters’ is the kind of song Twin Atlantic always threatened to write, a soaring arena rock epic which easily takes the title of best song of the night. It’s “there’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer” chorus line serving as the perfect mantra for the band’s admirable ambitions. Produced by super producer Jacknife Lee (whose client list somewhat tellingly also includes U2, R.E.M, Editors and Bloc Party) the song is a highly polished affair on record with an array of strings and processed vocals. Tonight it is stripped to its core in its live incarnation, which only adds to its raw power and shows that Twin Atlantic can compete with the very best on their day. Finishing a vast set with the joyous hit single ‘Heart and Soul’, its chorus (seemingly lifted from Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’) has the crowd screaming along at the top of their lungs, and serves as the perfect song to close the evening.
Twin Atlantic are just a few great songs short of fulfilling their lofty ambitions, and tonight’s mammoth 21 song set, although admirable given the ticket price, is probably a stretch too far when padded out with some filler material (although that’s unlikely to be an issue with the band’s army of devoted fans). Despite some inconsistencies shown tonight, Twin Atlantic are a ferocious note-perfect live band who display a huge level of ambition which is sadly lacking in many of their peers. With a setlist littered with excellent songs, the band are only likely to grow from here and one hopes they will in time find their way to the larger audience they richly deserve, as when on form they are as potent as any of their contemporaries. Biffy Who?
Review by Gary O’Donnell