Previously on Sweating with Strangers: Maroon 5’s career and fame levels reach their peak, as they support Matchbox Twenty in front of a couple thousand Brummies and a large black curtain.
In the second part of my September 2003 American Soft Rock Band Rearranged Gig Double Bill – catchy title – it’s off to see Lifehouse at the old Carling Academy in Dale End, Birmingham.
It’s fitting that this followed on from Matchbox Twenty a few days earlier, as I’d originally gotten in to Lifehouse after reading that they were touring America supporting that very band in 2001.
On that self-recommendation alone, I bought their debut record No Name Face, and loved it! They had a much more raw sound than MB20, and just a hint of edge that would no doubt quickly be wiped away following the colossal success of their breakthrough single ‘Hanging By A Moment’.
But not so! Like many of their contemporaries, Lifehouse returned post-9/11 with a much angrier, heavier record. I mean that of course to be taken within context, it’s not Pantera’s A Vulgar Display of Power*, but 2002’s Stanley Climbfall was still a big leap and a wonderful surprise for me from a band whose commercial output thus far would’ve been at home soundtracking a particularly angsty episode of One Tree Hill.
The album features some largely unnecessary but completely wonderful extended riffage, especially on opener ‘Spin’. Most of the tracks have distorted rhythm guitars turned way the hell up, and lyrically and vocally they seem to be more than a little bit put out at the way the world is going. It is still easily in my top 10 favourite albums of all time, and a couple of the tracks would be high on a similar list too.
Here’s ‘Take Me Away’, which is just brilliant and has an awesome intro, especially if you listen to it with earphones on. Ooh, that’s a pleasant little guitar duet playing. Wait, here comes a third one out of nowhere and DRUMS AND POWER CHORDS AND YEEEEEAAAH!
Excuse me, I got carried away there.
Anyway, it’s a great album, and therefore I naturally needed to see them perform it live. As mentioned last time, the Iraq War pushed the tour back from spring to September, which made this a good way to round off the summer. I guilt tripped my sister into letting me use her car, and promptly put a hundred miles on it collecting people from Cheltenham and Worcester on the way and dropping them off afterwards. Blood not necessarily running thicker than water there, but oh well, I needed gig buddies.
About the gig, I actually can’t remember very much, unfortunately. I can’t recall who the support act were, except my friend Poppa reminded me that it was a female solo artist whose backing band had a guitarist called Mike. Maybe it was his birthday or something, but we were all shouting ‘Mike’ at him in between her songs. Oh such classic memories of yore.
I do remember that Lifehouse started with the title track off the album, which was laaaaaazy, especially as it’s a) not a particularly strong song and b) not at all suited to opening a show, being a bit of a gentle ballad. But, hey, if it’s the Stanley Climbfall tour, better start with ‘Stanley Climbfall’. Not to worry, at least they played ‘Spin’ next, which was just epic live.
I wrote a review of this show for my university ‘newspaper’ shortly afterwards, in which I recall trying to seem cool by bemoaning the setlist choices. Apparently I felt it was too obvious when they finished with ‘Hanging by a Moment’, even though of course that’s what they were always going to finish with, and it was the perfectly natural choice. I’m so glad I gave up trying to seem cool in 2006 (my complaint against ‘Stanley Climbfall’ opening the show notwithstanding, that one is actually valid).
And that’s about all I have for you on this one. Apologies to Lifehouse for the abbreviated review, but don’t worry, the next time I saw them was far more memorable and even more brilliant. For though they did indeed lose much of their edge after this, following the international success of wedding-first-dance fodder ballad ‘You and Me’, they actually managed to get better live while doing it.
So look forward to that in the distant future, and enjoy ‘You and Me’ right now, to kill some time and fill some space in this blog.
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*thank you Reddit for providing me with title of a really angry and heavy record