Saturday 10 October, 2009
O2 Academy, Brixton
Support: Madina Lake + Heaven?s Basement

Sometimes Punktastic will take you to the strangest of places. Case in point: Papa Roach at Brixton Academy! Originally Andy@ was scheduled to cover this show, but an eleventh hour switcharoo means yours truly is in for a night of hairspray histrionics from some seriously pop-friendly rock acts. Well, who could pass up the opportunity to feel about 10 years younger again?

Opener HEAVEN?S BASEMENT hits the stage just 15 minutes after doors, yet surprisingly, there?s a hefty wedge of folk here to see the quintet. An age-old Brixton Academy foe is lying in wait though. For years the sound quality at the cavernous venue has been hit or miss; tonight it?s very much a miss. Portions of the crowd don?t seem too bothered though, lapping it up despite the muddied guitars. The band itself seems to be a different entity to 18 months ago; some of the ?danger? that shrouded the gutter rock sound then seems to have gone A.W.O.L. and there?s definitely a hint of polish now. Still, top credits for stage presence; Heaven?s Basement look like they were made for the Academy. (3/5)

Papa Roach frontman, Coby Dick (despite his ruminations, he?ll always be known as that in these parts) concisely sums up MADINA LAKE. ?Those guys are full of energy,? he states. That?s very true. The Chicago quartet has tonnes of it, with bass player Matthew Leone executing enough high-risk leaps to impress even the Chinese State Circus. The problem though is that?s about all you can say for the pop-rock outfit tonight. For a band that produces a crisp, precise sound on record, the sludgy venue echoes knock out that performance keystone. All that?s left is a band running around, throwing out by-the-numbers fan acknowledgements, and sounding noticeably sub-par. (1/5)

Nearly a decade ago, ?Last Resort? was number three in the UK singles chart. Fact. PAPA ROACH had seemingly come out of nowhere to achieve incredible commercial success. Nine years on, the band has happily been making a living for itself. Sure, the success of the debut album hasn?t followed, but the fact that this many people have come out for the band (and not because of the nostalgic reasons that enticed those to Limp Bizkit shows earlier this year) is somewhat impressive. During those years, the sound of Papa Roach has changed drastically. Essentially, the band is now a rock ?n? roll group, full of hooked choruses, big sounds and not so much as a hint of rapping. Whether you chalk it up to organic band development or trend-hopping, the set tonight is all about the band?s sound in the here and now. The fact that the opening three tracks are all lifted from current album, ?Metamorphosis?, is enough to make that clear. Need more proof? The only whiff of ?Infest? we get within the first hour is ?Dead Cell?. This probably explains why then there is a sense that a lot of the 15 year olds in attendance think this is a ?hot new? band. Hmm.

Such a move means that the set as a whole is a bit patchy, mainly because a fair whack of the newer material (particularly the songs from ?The Paramour Sessions?) is patchy. ??To Be Loved?, rather than sounding like the bodyslamming Monday Night Raw theme it is, is swallowed up by ill sound, and ?Hollywood Whore? is, quite frankly, cringe-worthy. Still, when the Californian quartet gets it right, they get it right. ?Getting Away With Murder? defies the off-sound to impress, whilst ?Scars? and ?Lifeline? actually sound heartfelt and enjoyable. When it does come time for those golden-oldies, the band delivers, although a little bit tamely. Coby Dick?s nu-metal recitation of ?Last Resort? is almost performed with an embarrassed look, although the crowd doesn?t think so. There?s horrible dance/moshing across the floor. It?s the end to the show everyone expected, and it does a job. (3/5)

So what do we learn of our evening with mainstream rockers? Well, Papa Roach drummer, Tony Palermo really knows how to knock seven shades of shit out of his kit. Next, watching bands ten years on doesn?t mean feeling ten years younger (well, not when the crowd averages about 15 years younger than you). Finally, Brixton Academy is a horrible sounding quagmire. Quick, to The Windmill?

Alex Hambleton