Despite being rather ill the night before, I wasn’t going to miss this gig. I’ve not caught Papa Roach live since they toured with Disturbed in 2010 and remember great things from every time I have been lucky enough to see them. I also had to cancel on an interview I had scheduled with drummer Tony Palermo. Aside from feeling like crap, I definitely didn’t want to be the person who passed some kind of bug on to Papa Roach mid-tour.
Anyway, I got to the Academy around half past eight as support act Ho99o9 were coming to the end of their set. As usual, the sound in the Academy was fairly poor, especially down on the main dancefloor where the bass sounds rumbled and distorted everything else. When your act consists of one guy on drums and two vocalists, this results in an absolute mush which is never going to do a band any favours. Even as one of the vocalists spoke directly to the crowd between songs, his voice sounded distant and echoey.
The words I caught were “For those of you who are asking why we’re opening for Papa Roach…”
(Ah, I thought. A chance for them to thank Papa Roach for taking a risk with a genre-busting band, and the audience for listening. Good one.)
Oh. The old “Poor us, we don’t fit in at first glance so our knee-jerk reaction is to insult the audience” routine. Well, you know what? When I found out they were opening, I looked them up and found out they were a hip-hop band. Knowing Papa Roach’s eclectic nu-metal style, I could kind of see that working. Seeing Ho99o9 on stage with a great drummer pounding out the rhythms, I could even more see that – although not for me – they were a decent fit in terms of touring support.
Why they use samples of guitars rather than getting an actual guitarist up there is beyond me, though. I also assume that, with two vocalists, their strong point is probably their lyrics… and the sound quality would have destroyed that link with their audience. Insulting them doesn’t help either. I spoke to Jack, one of our photographers, who’d travelled up from Leeds with his other half for the gig. They’d seen the whole set and pretty much mirrored my comments.
There was some cheering in response to their songs ending, but not a huge amount given the size of the crowd. Thankfully nobody boo’d or jeered them, though. A much larger cheer erupted as their banner came down to reveal Papa Roach‘s after they’d left the stage.
The headliners ambled, leapt and pounced onto the stage at around 9:20, setting up a nice long set full of new and classic material. Opener “Crooked Teeth” was, sadly ruined by the acoustics. I couldn’t hear a damn thing coming out of Jacoby’s mouth. When the band launched into “Getting Away With Murder” and the bass notes overrode everything else coming from the speakers, I gave up and put my earplugs in which made a tremendous difference. Mr Shaddix has a hell of a live singing voice and I’m really glad I got to appreciate it despite the best efforts of whoever put the sound system into the Academy.
Papa Roach are a band with more energy than is fair for a bunch of guys of approximately my age. Shaddix’s historical problems with drugs and the like are a thing of the past, so seeing a band powered by pure adrenaline and love for their craft is a joy to see. The crowd almost seemed to be attempting to keep up as Papa Roach took us through “Between Angels and Insects” and “Face Everything and Rise”. With the latter, the keyboards at the beginning were once again completely lost due to the distorted, ramped-up bass. A shame for travelling fifth member Anthony Esperance who also plays rhythm guitar, and batters a spare floor tom during “Geronimo”, a new song which appeared earlier this year.
Normal service was resumed for “Born For Greatness”, with the crowd going particularly mental when Jacoby informed us that a video was being recorded for the song… and the cameras were here tonight. After a round of “Here we fucking go”, initiated by the crowd but picked up and run with by the band, we headed back in time for “She Loves Me Not”, a song that the band haven’t had in their live set for around thirteen years. The next song up, “Scars”, doesn’t need an introduction… so it didn’t get one. That opening guitar chord is enough to get the crowd singing from beginning to end. I remember seeing a Papa Roach tour when this was on their then-current album, and Jacoby saying that it pretty much saved the band. I guess we all owe “Scars” a big thank you!
Old gave way to new with a couple of lighter songs – recent single “Periscope” followed by “Gravity” and then a return to the bouncier stuff with an unexpected cover of Blur’s “Song 2”. I seem to remember this being in a computer game (a football one?) back in the day. Anyone else remember that? Anyway…
“Traumatic” had the band encouraging the crowd to get down on their honkers then bounce up when the track kicked in again. This resulted in one poor lass near me getting soaked as the girls behind her got a little over-excited and forgot they had pints in their hands.
A very poignant moment occurred as “Forever” segued into a brief section of Linkin Park’s “In The End” which the band dedicated to Chester Bennington. Looking around, it was emotional to see every single face in the crowd belting out the lyrics to this classic. Also heartening to hear the extended applause as Jacoby encouraged anyone suffering through depression or anything similar to reach out and not keep their problems to themselves, a sentiment we can wholeheartedly agree with.
The main set ended with “American Dreams”, “Lifeline” (a slowed down version) and “Help” before the band took the traditional minute or so to pop off stage and towel down. They returned with a belter of an encore and Jacoby Shaddix dressed in a Scotland football shirt, as the national team are on the cusp of World Cup qualification. A nice gesture – and this coming from an Englishman whose team have already qualified (despite being a bit crap).
“None of the Above” was ploughed through before we hit the ground running for four old-school tracks on the spin… but first a special guest was announced. Local hero Scott Kennedy of Bleed From Within paired up for vocals on “Blood Brothers”, using his own metalcore style. It was superb. I’d love to hear his band do a full cover of this song. How about it, Scott? [And I stand educated – Dan has pointed out in our comments that the band covered this track on their Uprising album – Mosh]
The closing trio was killer. “Dead Cell” ran into “Last Resort” which surprisingly didn’t end the show. There was just enough time for our own beloved Pit Troll to get a shout-out from the stage before “…To Be Loved” created a last blast of chaos and brought things to a close.
Papa Roach have been going for over twenty years. In that time they’ve adapted, changed, taken risks… but never lost the drive and energy it takes to be a hugely entertaining live act. Tonight was maybe the sixth or seventh time I’ve seen them live and I’ve never once been disappointed. As I said at the start, I wasn’t really feeling on top form when I left the house but I actually felt better by the end of the show and part of that was down to the sheer enjoyment of what I’d been watching for around an hour and three quarters.
I missed their last tour, but there is no way I’ll be missing the next one. For those still to catch them on this leg… you’re in for a treat.
Photos by Sean Larkin Photography (from the Nottingham show)