Various songs by In Flames are being played from several peoples’ phones as I arrive at Manchester’s O2 Ritz on Oxford Road. The mood of those who had arrived early was one of anticipation and excitement that they were getting to see one of their favourite bands in one of the city’s premier venues. One person who I was in the queue with mentioned that this was their sixth time seeing the band and that they were looking forward to hearing some of the latest tracks from I, The Mask.
First to take to the stage, however, were recently renamed Light The Torch. Having recently released Revival to great reviews from both fans and press alike, the band are going from strength to strength and are clearly excited to be bringing their new material to the UK. Front-man and vocalist Howard Jones greeted those who had arrived after the first few songs with “it smells like good people in here!”, which was met with a huge cheer from the suitably packed room before the band kicked into “Lost in the Fire” that set the heads banging. With the set being comprised primarily of songs from their debut/most recent album, the band delivered a cracking set and set the bar high for the next act to follow.
That next act happened to be Norma Jean whose name I’d not heard since the mid-2000’s at the height of the metal-core season. When speaking to some of the other attendees in the changeover between them and Light the Torch, over 90% of those I spoke to had never heard of the band let alone heard their music. With a high bar set by the previous act and a slightly bigger crowd to win over, the quintet from Georgia had a mountain to climb which they gallantly attempted… Only to be met with a slightly frosty reception. Whilst by the end there were a few mosh-pits going from the die hard fans, the majority of the audience politely clapped and did not do much else.
After a sea of lights and smoke enveloped the stage it was then time for the band, which judging by the number of t-shirts, most people had come to see. Opening with “Voices” from the latest album, In Flames set the place alight with the amount of crowd-surfers being so many that the number of security guards in the pit went from 2 to 12 in the space of 2 minutes. With vocalist Anders encouraging the moshpits and surfers, the audience didn’t let up with there being large pits for nigh on the entirety of the band’s 90 minute set. In amongst the sea of strobes, smoke and crowd surfers, they continued playing on with guest rhythm guitarist Chris Broderick (Act of Defiance/ex-Megadeth) doing a sterling job on the intricate parts in some of the older material.
On the topic of earlier material, In Flames decided to play a song from one the albums which got them on the road to stardom. That album and song, was none other than the classic that is “Colony”. Met with a thunderous roar after Anders introduced it, the crowd seemed to go into more of a frenzy with the biggest pit of the evening opening up to legendary main riff (which is coincidentally similar to Nevermore’s “Inside 4 Walls” which Broderick has played a few times in the past – go figure).
With the rest of the set made of tracks from across the latter half of their career and ending with “The End” from Battles, In Flames delivered a cracking set which was only slightly marred by the, in my opinion, overuse of strobes and smoke. Whilst it did look atmospheric, there were points where it was incredibly difficult to see the stage and those on it. Maybe a little less next time.
Pics by Katie Frost Photography