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Gig Review: Highly Suspect

 

Following the previous post, heading to The Old Blue Last,“East London’s most notorious venue”, says NME.  I was very excited to see this Brooklyn based rock music trio, that has just picked up two Grammy nominations for Best Rock Album & Best Rock Song just last December.

It was a great honour I shall say, Rolling Stone has named Highly Suspect one of ten bands to watch, and I had the opportunity to see their first appearance in the UK. Going up the narrow staircase of this old-fashioned pub, the dark room upstairs is where the live music would be taking place. Just over a hundred people, the crowd was a good mix, heard few Americans talking how great it was to see their beloved band in the UK for the first time, and it’s always good to have audiences that are already familiar with the band.

Highly Suspect’s music is chaotic with a high energy of garage punk and rock’n’roll, especially with guitarist-vocalist Johnny Stevens’ signature voice. From the start, the mix of rock and blues already showed a dynamic sense of their music. They have such great stage presence, very engaging with their audience, it wasn’t what they played but also how they played it.

After Highly Suspect made their way onto the stage, Johnny Stevens (lead vocal/ guitarist) slowly began to play the guitar, building up the suspense to ‘Bath Salts’. Followed by ‘Lost’, by this far I am sure even first timer would understand why everyone was so keen to see this band. ‘Bloodfeather’ was next, some of the audience started cheering. “In the name of love, I’ll follow you”, it was an excellent love song.

Half way through the set there was a lead vocal turn from bassist Rich Meyer along with a solo track from Stevens, those are the moments that delved right into the intimate details of their personal experiences, which most certainly influenced their songwriting, and created the depth of each song with out doubt.

As an ex-drummer, I personally would always pay attention to the drummer. Ryan Meyer’s thundering drums almost recreated the same heart pounding moments where Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) got me in Whiplash. Ryan Meyer’s strong and passionate drums backed his brother, Rich’s smooth but also progressive bass lines, with Stevens’ out blast of hard rock-y sensual voice of ‘Fuck Me Up’, the chorus will have you screaming at the top of your lungs. Johnny Stevens’ voice often gets comparison to Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon), the next song ‘Mom’, Stevens showed the facets of his voice by performing a slower blues-y song of the record.

 

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Next up was one of their oldest songs ‘Lydia’, it was about Stevens’ ex-girlfriend.

The very last song, ‘Claudeland’ was a great choice to end the night. The album is purely based on the band members personal experiences, the pain, the sorrow. “I’m constantly f*cking up and trying to learn from it. I think I’m on the right path, and feel like the admissions I’ve laid down in this album lyrically will help me to feel at peace with certain events from my past.” Johnny said so during an interview with The Huffington Post in 2015.

“Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing
Don’t worry about it, it’s not that bad
Come out where the music is playing
Come out where the feeling is not so sad

Oh, you got the weight of the world
On your shoulders tonight
It’s ok, were gonna get you feeling all right
You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders tonight
Its ok, were gonna get you feeling all right, all right”

The night tuned out to be much more than I was expecting, texting friends while heading back to the station about how great the set was, each song has its own personality and the story behind it, makes it a lot personal. The live performance of pure bliss, it certainly was an amazing yet powerful moment that I have shared with every single person in that room.

I will leave you all with the awesome video for ‘Claudeland’.


If you are a fan of Royal Blood and haven’t listened to Highly Suspect yet, I can promise you, you are going to like it.

UK tour dates:

  • 1st – Carnival of Madness Tour @ The SSE Hydro, Glasgow UK
  • 2nd – Carnival of Madness Tour @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham, UK
  • 4th – Carnival of Madness Tour @ Wembley The SSE Arena, London, UK
  • 5th – Carnival of Madness Tour @ Leeds First Direct Arena, Leeds, UK
  • 6th – Carnival of Madness Tour @ Manchester Arena, Manchester UK
  • 8th – Black Heart, London UK

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