Never away from UK soil for too long, Theory (the artist formerly known as Theory of a Deadman) are back for another UK tour. With 2017’s Wake Up Call very much a departure from their previous material, albeit their rockier stuff having changed flavours throughout the years, and another album due next year in a similar vein, it was set to be an interesting night.
By the time support act Dead Posey take to the stage, it’s very obvious that this is still very much a rock crowd. Full of grungy, bluesy tones, it’s a great fit for Theory in their mid-career sound. Their fuzzy tones blend well into one complete sound and they’re a band very aware of their own niche without becoming overbearing. Whilst there appears to be some guitar issues, they battle through the set relentlessly and the quartet make the most of their time onstage. It speaks volumes to their prowess as an act, tight and polished as they take the issues in their stride.
Meanwhile, the chemistry between them is tangible, all pulling in the same direction rather than individual parts. Definitely doing the correct job of an opener, they warm up the crowd with ease with their sultry sound going down well with the large audience assembled.
Kicking off their own set with the evergreen “Lowlife”, Theory of a Deadman are back. The damning indictment of celebrity obsession of “Blow” follows and frontman Tyler Connolly takes the song without being accompanied by his guitar. Despite it being a rare sight onstage, Connolly looks at ease during this time and is able to command the crowd as easily as when he’s got his guitar strapped to him.
What becomes apparent is the band are pulling no punches tonight, drawing heavily from their back catalogue and not looking to their poppier endeavours until we hit “History of Violence” from their upcoming album, Say Nothing. It’s followed by the “Tears in the Rain” speech from Blade Runner and Connolly sits at a keyboard for a run of songs and even a cover of “Wicked Game”, before their own “All or Nothing” and “Straight Jacket”. The slower pace brings it down and for only a couple of songs, doesn’t outstay its welcome but brings a new flavour to the night. Despite their shift in sound on the last album and its continuation on the upcoming release, they don’t go heavy-handed with it – they’re a band who’ve been around the block some time and they know exactly what side their bread is buttered on. They cater to everyone in the audience, they’re here to provide a rock show.
But even in their tamer rock moments, numbers like “Santa Monica”, “Not Meant to Be” and “Angel” are as welcome as the heavier moments like “Bitch Came Back”, “So Happy” and the darker “Drown”. And as they’re always on the road, as a live act, they’re as top quality as they’ve ever been. Full of interactions with each other and making good use of stage space, they’re far from going through the motions and out to give everyone the best night they can.
With “Rx (Medicate)” and “Bad Girlfriend” (complete with a round of “Paradise City” which has everyone singing), it’s another one for the books. As they’ve already announced their Download appearance, it’s obvious we’ll be seeing them again before 2020 is finished. As one of the most reliable live acts around, Theory of a Deadman never disappoint and it’s fair to say everyone else in the room agrees.
Photos by Sean Larkin Photography