Courage My Love – The Exchange, Bristol, 01/06/17

Poster for Courage My Love's UK/European tour

Last One Home started the night with an incredibly fun – if somewhat cheesy – set.

Towards the start, I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes. ‘Drop Me’ is painfully repetitive, chanting “You don’t have to hold on” ad infinitum. I felt like I was stuck in some kind of time loop. Things picked up rapidly, however, and that was the only dull moment in their set. Every band is allowed to have one bad track, but thankfully the rest of Last One Home’s material is tightly woven and well-written.

‘Darkened Sky’ is less stereotypically pop-punk, with Muse-esque guitars bringing an arena atmosphere to the proceedings. ‘Last Man Standing’ was my personal highlight of their set. It’s from their upcoming EP and it shows promising development. Last One Home have been a band for a few years now, and their experience is paying off. The lyrics they’re writing now are far less stereotypical, that’s for sure!

Despite the fact that they were missing a member, they didn’t allow it to impact upon their performance. In fact, vocalist Tom Westlake joked that they only played a cover because their other guitarist was missing, making me grateful for his absence. Introducing it as “one of our favourite songs by one of our favourite bands,” it was none other than Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’.

Drummer Phil Horler used the opportunity to play an extended drum solo which verged on gratuitous, hitting the skins so hard that his drum stick flew out of his hand. Quick thinking Tom snatched it up from the stage, throwing it back to the drummer and hitting him on the head in a hilarious ‘You’ve Been Framed!’ moment. Joking, “You can’t be in a rock ‘n’ roll band without a drum solo!”, the applause that filled the room was the loudest they received all evening: they got the crowd warmed up in the best kind of way.

I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on Last One Home. If the other tracks on their EP are as good as ‘Last Man Standing’, that’s going to be a release you don’t want to miss.

Setlist:

Doing This For You
Drop Me
House of Fire
Last Man Standing
Darkened Sky
American Idiot cover
Bring Down The Storm
You Could Spend One Night

Pretty Little Enemy were the only band on the line-up that I didn’t like. Vocalist Louise Body was unnecessarily sexual in an extremely uncomfortable way. Joking, “I’ve never done a gig in summer in latex pants before, I’m learning my lesson!”, she proceeded to sashay her way across the stage to stroke guitarist Georgia Bell, pretending to wipe sweat on her. Cringe.

Combining that awkwardness with tone deaf covers of Katy Perry’s ‘Black Horse’ and ‘Anaconda’ by Nicki Minaj, I couldn’t wait for their set to be over. Musically, I found their original material interesting, but Louise’s vocal was a tad screechy, making it difficult to understand any of the lyrics. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think one of the lyrics are one of the most important aspects of a song, so I wasn’t a fan of Pretty Little Enemy.

HalfLives

My disappointment completely dissipated with the appearance of Italy’s HalfLives. Starting their set with a team bonding exercise, putting all of their hands in the middle to hype each other up, I was in love with these five before they even started playing.

Rising from the ashes of OVER, HalfLives have only officially existed since September. When the band announced their new project they claimed that they were “more passionate and ambitious than ever”, and it’s impossible to argue with that. Playing debut album ‘Empty Rooms‘ in its entirety – as well as a cover of My Chemical Romance’s ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, dedicated to one of their fans – this is unquestionably one of the strongest debuts of all time. The lyrics are inspiring, and each song stands out from the rest: most recent single ‘Echo’ is a ballad, while ‘Half Alive’ was described by the band as a “very jumpable and danceable one”. HalfLives are not a band who write the same song twice.

Vocalist Linda Battilani might be small, but she has a surprisingly powerful voice which gives her band a unique selling point. Tonally, she’s similar to Tonight Alive’s Jenna McDougall (if you’re a fan of them, you should definitely check HalfLives out!) but her vocal is undoubtedly stronger. Linda’s also one of the most professional performers I’ve seen live. During closing song ‘Burn’ her microphone stopped working. Despite desperate attempts to fix it, it refused to come back to life, but she didn’t let it put a dampener on their set. Linda took it like a champ, jumping up on the speaker and singing at the top of her lungs to make sure everyone in the room could still hear her.

I’ve seen more established acts who have thrown tantrums, shouting and swearing and bringing the mood down, but Linda’s bright and cheerful personality kept the energy in the room up. Closed their set by announcing”We are HalfLives, and this fucking thing doesn’t work, but whatever!”, I was sad that it was over. I can’t wait to see HalfLives again in the future.

Setlist:

Lone Wolf
Mayday
Collide
The Sickness
Welcome to the Black Parade cover
Empty Rooms
Echo
Half Alive
Burn

Courage My Love

 

Courage My Love‘s music is deceptively upbeat. Their songs are impossible to resist dancing to, but on closer inspection they’re raw, filled with soul-baring lyrics.

Vocalist Mercedes Arn-Horn was recently interviewed by Kerrang! and shared that all three members of the band have experienced relationship breakdowns in the past couple of years. Second album ‘Synesthesia’ tells the story of those tough times and it’s equally heart-wrenching and hope-inducing. The trio have reached the other side of their struggles and are stronger than ever before, and they’re using their platform to encourage all of their fans to do the same.

If I had to choose one word to describe Courage My Love, it would be empowering. Based off of the number of people in the room chanting back every lyric, I’m not alone in feeling that way. ‘Never Gonna Change’ is all about living life for yourself, refusing to comply with the expectations of others. Mercedes enthused, “If people want you to change, it’s because they’re insecure. Don’t change yourself for anyone else.” She obviously believes in her message, getting down in the crowd to jump around with the fans while yelling the, “I’m never gonna, never gonna change,” chorus, she no longer seems to have a care in the world. Then there’s ‘The Year I Disappeared’, a hope-infused ode to an ex which is reflective while still focused on moving forward.

Their music is definitely touching people. During ‘Love Hurts’ – which Mercedes shared was a song “about a horrible relationship. Really bad…” – a cathartic mosh pit broke out. The band seemed impressed with the response: because their music veers towards the pop side of the pop-punk spectrum, it can’t be often that they get moshers at their shows!

Closer ‘Tough Love’ featured bassist Brandon Lockwood crowd surfing across the room, ending the night on a triumphant note. This was Courage My Love’s second visit to the UK, and I’m already looking forward to their return. They admitted that they “never wanna leave” because they love touring here so much, so hopefully they’ll be back sooner rather than later.

Setlist:

Animal Heart
Walls
Kerosene
Drowning
Need Someone
Stereo
Skin and Bone
Love Hurts
Two Headed Monster
Never Gonna Change
The Year I Disappeared

Dark Wood, Dark Water
Tough Love