Photo: ChuffMedia

Bring Me The Horizon live in Birmingham: slick, technical, but not without flaws

Utilita Arena, Birmingham, Saturday 25th September 

As the gig ended and the lights came up in the arena, a large, cheesy graphic flashed onto the main screen: ‘BMTH just rocked my fucking world.’ I’d had a pretty great time – I was doubled over, out of breath and sweating buckets from a marathon 18 song setlist. So why didn’t I feel like they had rocked my world?

Now, before I get to that, you will notice from the top that the gig got four stars out of five. It deserved every one of them – the sound was top notch, Oli sounded better than he ever has, and the band’s playing was tight. The stage setup, background visuals, and effects were all very high effort and impressive. The supports were good too – Nova Twins are an enigmatic duo I’ve had an interest in since I stumbled across their first EP, and by all accounts gave a performance here that suggests they are going to be making big waves in the UK rock scene over the next few years. Conversely, rock stalwarts You Me At Six played their standard set of big hitters from the back catalogue and new pop-inflected bangers, although the set did drag when they played their songs that sound like music from the FIFA menu. Frontman Josh Franceschi was also a little buried in the mix, but he shouted his heart out to make up for it and the crowd seemed to love it – going for a mixture of youth and experience for the supports was a decision that definitely paid off. 

The BMTH set was filled with great moments, as is to be expected – ‘Throne’ and ‘The House of Wolves’ brought the house down. ‘Shadow Moses’ got much crowd engagement as well, and crucially Oli, whose problems with screaming live are well known at this point, was on point in these heavier tracks. ‘Parasite Eve’ with its electronic pre-chorus PSA sounded immense through the huge arena setup and really cranked up the atmosphere. It was a great time – I’d thoroughly recommend it – but rather counter-intuitively for such an effect- heavy show with 18 songs packed in, I can’t escape the feeling that the band really played it safe on this one.

BMTH have become the biggest rock band of our generation in Britain, and they’ve done it by being sonically adventurous and tackling the haters head on

This isn’t the deathcore purists’ refrain of “Why didn’t we get ‘Pray For Plagues?’”, but rather a lamentation that it felt like a disservice to their own sonically adventurous projects to only really play their pop-rock songs from That’s the Spirit onwards. When you have 18 tracks, it can start to drag. We got basically the whole of Post Human: Survival Horror played, which got a bit samey and also relied on a lot of recorded album features which was a bit of a shame. Obviously Oli can’t do a Babymetal impression, but he could have given Yungblud’s part on ‘Obey’ a go instead of a canned recording, surely? By contrast, the excellent live feature from Nova Twins on ‘1×1’ really showed this up. Also, if you are going to do a digital representation of a feature then Grimes is probably the most fitting person artistically and aesthetically to do it for, yet we didn’t get ‘Nihilist Blues,’ nor any recognition of the electronic side of their discography at all – it’s like the Music To… didn’t exist. Sure, the songs are a bit long, but is it beyond the realms of possibility for some kind of shorter live mix? 

My problem is this: BMTH have become the biggest rock band of our generation in Britain, and they’ve done it by being sonically adventurous and tackling the haters head-on. I didn’t like amo, personally, but I loved That’s The Spirit and chunks of Music To.... Throughout all these cycles they’re stared down the haters. This felt a little like a post-lockdown capitulation, an acknowledgement that they just wanted to celebrate live music being possible again without contention, furore or statement. And that’s fine. I had a good time, I thought they were technically excellent and streets ahead of most other UK rock bands. But at the same time, the gig has made me re-evaluate what actually makes me a fan of BMTH, and what makes them who they are, so to speak. And when you strip out both the electronic and the heavier influences, what you’re left with is a somewhat neutered BMTH almost playing as an incredibly technically proficient tribute act to themselves. There was a lot of what makes them good, fun and popular in this performance, but not quite as much of what makes them special.


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