Papa Roach at O2 Academy Brixton: A (Slightly Biased) Review

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“I think I need help!” New vocal chords more like, because within ten minutes of Jacoby Shaddix and his entourage strolling on stage Tuesday night, mine were spent.

I cannot stress how much I love these guys, which means I may not be the best person to deliver an objective review. But heck, I’ll give it go anyway. Papa Roach were one of the first hard rock bands I ever got into and still to this day manage to get me hyped. So seeing as their last tour was cut short due to the tragic events in Paris in 2015, expectations for this show were sky high – especially after I purchased my ticket (at an unsavoury £40.65 price tag).

Thankfully, their newest album Crooked Teeth gave me instant hope. Papa Roach have grown and evolved immensely since their rap/nu-metal roots, dipping their toes into the pools of pop punk and heavy metal with varying success. Experimentation is their forte. And if their previous album F.E.A.R. said, “This is the direction we’re heading now,” then Crooked Teeth says, “Don’t worry, old school fans! We haven’t forgotten about you.”

Featuring the likes of Help, Born For Greatness and Break The Fall, this record is proof that Papa Roach have homed in on the thread-thin balance between what older fans want and what younger audiences crave. Electronic drops bring vibrancy to the singles, rapping is back in welcome doses, harmonies leave the album full of depth and poise – all while maintaining the hard rock status the group have been known for since the beginning. Needless to say, during the two hour wait outside the venue, I was itching to hear my favourite songs off Crooked Teeth in the flesh.

So, imagine my ecstasy when the suitably tooth-ridden curtain dropped, to reveal the five-piece opening on the album’s killer title track. If that wasn’t enough, this was followed by the iconic Getting Away With Murder, then Between Angels And Insects and Face Everything And Rise. By the time Born For Greatness came around – what I believe to be their most unique and enjoyable track of the last few albums – I barely had enough energy to raise a devil horn. Why must they be so damn catchy?

When you dig deep, it all boils down to their frontman. While the quality of the band’s music over time is up for debate, Shaddix channels an irrefutable and unparalleled charisma in the realm of the stage – securing his place as Papa Roach’s USP. Today, his vocals are more seasoned and polished than ever, which resonates most in tracks like Forever and Periscope; the latter of which I was pleasantly surprised to hear them play live. This was not nearly as surprising, however, as their cover of Song 2 at the evening’s half-way point. To say the crowd reacted would be putting it lightly.

With all that said, I do have one negative about my favourite band’s performance this night. Someone needs to have a stern word with Papa Roach’s manager, or whomever comes up with their setlists. An unnecessary portion of the gig consisted of the heavy rock band’s considerably slower tracks such as Scars, Gravity and Lifeline, numbing an otherwise manic atmosphere. Then, there was American Dreams. Although it’s by no means a bad song, it’s formulaic nature does not warrant a place on a live setlist, as far as I’m concerned.

The rotten cherry on the sodden cake, however, was the inclusion of None Of The Above towards the end of the show. Here’s some food for thought, guys: try and reserve the royal slots of your encore for the greatest, most beloved songs of your career – not for one of the worst b-side (no, c-side!) tracks of your new album. While this indeed frustrated me, more than I was comfortable with, a seamless rendition of Linkin Park’s In The End (coupled with a heartfelt tribute to the late Chester Bennington) soon put my niggling irritations to rest. Conveniently, this brought us to the final portion of the evening.

To sign off, Papa Roach bashed out three of their most awesome songs to date. First off, Dead Cell, a cocaine-infused rap fest from Infest. Secondly, Last Resort, the only Papa Roach track you would hear in a mainstream nightclub in Camden (to be fair, with good reason. It’s pretty badass). And, to top it all off, from the trend-setting The Paramour Sessions came …To Be Loved.

When Shaddix yelled, “We’re not done with you guys yet,” and dived into the final song, I decided to depart my near-perfect spot and throw myself into a mosh pit for the first time in two years. With the possible exceptions of Slipknot and Gojira, Papa Roach are the only metal band that could make me do such a thing today; a fitting testament to an ever-changing group that have been going for over 24 years, and who I am confident will continue to wow me for years to come.

 

My Rating:

4-5-stars

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