5SOS Review: Old is the ‘New’ New
First things first, Five Seconds of Summer are NOT a boy-band. Damn the thousands of screaming female fans that track their every move, the legions of Twitter followers that can trend on a whim, the carefully styled image, individualised fan-bases, the recent nude Snapchat picture scandal, and the fact they were championed by, supported and are signed to the same management company as 1D. They are NOT a boy-band…..Said nobody ever.
5SOS may rail against it, but given their clean-cut, rather likeable demeanour and the ‘shock and awe’ campaign of their publicity team, they’re turning into an Aussie 1D……if 1D could play instruments, write music and were anything other than personality vacuums. Truth be told, they’re actually a legit band, far more like Fall Out Boy and Blink, with a liberal dousing of McBusted magic-dust thrown on. In fact, they’ve actually written songs with Tom, Danny and James from the super-group (are we allowed to call them that yet?). Their sound is decidedly pop-punk, evidenced by the fact John Feldmann (of Ska/Punk band Goldfinger) produced their debut album.
From the moment the show starts and the 30 second countdown is greeted with screams and yelps from the thousands in standing-room only attendance at the magnificent Steampunk-esque Roundhouse, you can feel something impressive is about to happen. I would wager that the iTunes festival will not host a louder or more fervent crowd this month. And to be honest, as much as you might want to scoff and dislike 5SOS, it is impossible not to surrender to the catchy tunes and just have some fun. A wave of nostalgia washes over you as the beat kicks in, like a throwback to the late 90s/00s era of guitar-based ebullient playful skater-rock.
The boys bound onto the stage looking like uncouth lesbians (all spray-on ripped jeans and Rolling Stones / Ozzy Sleeveless Tees), but they’re immediately forgiven as they launch into their set. It is apparent fairly early that these guys have got some skills musically. Michael, having mercifully dyed his hair rouge after his previous bleach-blonde mop made him look like Billy Idol, has great guitar riffs and some proper punk energy on stage. He is however literally the red-headed stepchild when it comes to the cheers/screams from the female (read teenage girl) fans, where he pales into insignificance compared to lead Luke and bassist Callum, both of whom prove very capable of axe-wielding. Powerhouse drummer, and nicest man in pop (he was actually nominated for that award) Ashton rounds out the group and is the steering force behind the show. And they can all sing. Yes, even the bassist and the drummer. As a live gig it is hard to fault.
The beauty of 5SOS I think, is in their veritable chameleon-like nature, with different tracks sounding like Bowling For Soup, All Time Low, A Simple Plan as well as the afore-mentioned influences and many more. It’s like you’ve got an armchair ride to a greatest hits tour of Give It A Name.
As a set-list, the band tick all the boxes, playing the fan favourites; 18, Voodoo Doll, Heartbreak Girl. Seldom have I seen a band so young look so at ease on stage. They are cumulatively younger than the oldest performer at this year’s iTunes festival, Tony Bennett, by a full 12 years (76 vs 88).
There is easy and amusing banter between them all. They get the crowd to move with a swish of their hands. They frequently invite the fans to sing along, and are rewarded with a great swell of love as their lyrics are sung back to them loud and clear. This kind goodwill is normally only engendered in fans of bands that have been around for more than a decade or so, not a couple of years. Weirdly, the only bum note they hit is on their second biggest hit ‘Don’t Stop’ which gets a little shouty at times. They redeem themselves though with a (far better than at the VMAs) rendition of ballad and new single ‘Amnesia’. With prescient lyrics like ‘I remember the make-up running down your face’, thousands of girls oblige and send floods of MaxFactor gushing to the floor as their teen idols emote desperately on stage. I would amazed if this doesn’t go to number 1.
The already dwindling testosterone-levels in the venue, pretty much bottom-out when the band dedicate headbanger ‘Good Girls’, “to all the bad girls out there”. I think even my testes turned a little ovarian at that point. The encore begins with one of their most famous covers from YouTube (where they were first discovered), the buoyant ‘That’s What I like About You’. Bouncing around the stage, they really capture the moment well. They have real poise and presence in front of their audience.
The show closes of course with the band’s biggest hit ‘She Looks So Perfect’, which does for American Apparel underwear, exactly the opposite of what Busta Rhymes did for Courvoisier, in that it has made it wildly popular. The singalong is indulgent and glorious, and everyone leaves with a smile on their face. As the crowds traipse out of the Roundhouse leaving behind sweat, tears, oestrogen and a hundred “OMG my friends are going to be super-jealous tomorrow”, you can’t help but think that this may have been an ‘I was there when’ moment for this generation of pop-rock fan.
A 2015 UK & Europe arena tour beckons, and as surely as misogyny and broken-promises follow Robin Thicke, as surely as Spring follows the season before Spring, so shall awards-shows, wins and superstardom follow for these boys. After 3 years of touring, it couldn’t happen to four more likeable chaps. Forget their five seconds of fame…….and prepare yourself for 365 days of glorious summer. Time to bask in the sunshine world, 5SOS have arrived.