Gig Review: Hollywood Undead / Pengshui – O2 Kentish Town Forum, London (14th February 2020)

To celebrate the launch of their new record, Hollywood Undead returned to London, O2 Kentish Town Forum, to kick off their tour. The new album, New Empire, Vol.1 is the sixth studio album by the American rap-rock band, and was released today, on the 14th of February. The band have commented that they wanted to imagine they’ve never made an album before and create something new. Not just reinventing their sound, but the band as a whole. I was lucky enough to go to this album launch and see a new side to a band I’ve listened to for years.

Pengshui (c) Abi Rose

When the doors opened, people poured into Kentish Town Forum. The crowd waiting anxiously while the stage was set up for the concert to start. Before Hollywood Undead came on, a support act took to the stage to welcome the crowd and warm them up for what was to come.

Pengshui came on at around 8PM for their set. Pengshui are a three-piece London band, a fusion of punk, metal, and grime. Their debut album comes out next week, so I’d recommend that anyone who is a fan of Hollywood Undead has a listen when it comes out. It would be an understatement for me to say that Pengshui are the perfect band to open for this concert – their music was heavily carried by drums, with an underlying bass that fleshed out the music, adding another layer to their sound. The vocalist showed off his skills, weaving between screaming the lyrics, and rapping the verses with an incredible speed.

About halfway through their set, they bought out their youngest fan. An eight-year-old girl, who came to see their first concert. Pengshui really opened up the pit, getting the crowd ready for the headliners.

Once Pengshui left the stage, the audience went back to anxiously waiting for Hollywood Undead to come on. While they were setting up, a flag with the band’s logo came down, and the crowd erupted in cheers. People chanted lines from their popular song “Everywhere I Go” and readied themselves for what was to come.

Hollywood Undead (c) Abi Rose

Hollywood Undead have been making music since their formation in 2015. They come from Los Angeles in California and have gone through journeys of self-discovery in that time. With each album there is a growing sense of maturity as they become new people, and experience new things and New Empire Vol.1 is no exception. Each of their albums have their signature crossing of the rap and rock genres. The vocals are mainly hip-hop/ rap orientated; the choruses often melodic, catchy verses sung by one of the members.

The music in the background is where the rock genre comes in – they play the instruments live, and the songs are often carried by piercing guitar riffs and pounding drums. The music is heavier, but with a slight electronic twist that only further emphasises the hip-hop influences of their music. They’re often referred to as nu-metal. The new album is slightly different- the music itself is heavier, and so are the vocals are. They seem to be delving into a more metalcore sound, whilst not abandoning their blending of genres.

When they took the stage, it was clear from the first moment onwards that the set would be an intense, energetic atmosphere. When a band has a large number of members, it becomes easy for people to fall into the background, to get lost in the stage. However, this didn’t happen. The stage was built to accommodate all five members, with a drum kit in the back centre and a podium either side, any members that weren’t on the front of the stage were still given a platform to show their energy from.

Hollywood Undead (c) Abi Rose

The setlist opened with “Time Bomb”, and throughout the entire set people were crowd-surfing, and opening mosh-pits throughout the stalls. During “Comin’ in Hot”, they looked for someone who could play guitar, and bought a member of the crowd up. Even though he’d been on stage with them before, they gave him another opportunity. They asked him who his favourite member was, and he replied, “to be honest, I love all of you”. The person they bought up was a natural showman, and seemed incredibly confident and comfortable on stage- he was clearly skilled at the guitar, and I hope he had a great time on stage.

After that, the band revealed that the drummer had an incredible singing voice, despite being confined to a drum kit. They asked the crowd to name a song, and people started shouting titles. From where I was, it was impossible to make out what people were saying. But they eventually selected “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi. The drummer sang a few lines of the chorus – his voice was soulful and radiated the sound of an 80s ballad. The set ended with a few blasts from the past. The last three songs were from some of their first few albums, and the older and more nostalgic the song was, the bigger the reaction from the crowd was. From where I was standing, I could see people looking around in excitement as their favourite songs came on, and those reactions made the night so pure and wholesome.

Hollywood Undead perform with a stage presence that fills the entire room. I would see them again in a heartbeat. The charismatic members pull you in, and the crowd watched with adoration. The album launch made this night special, but it was reinforced by the positive attitude of the band, and the amazing reactions from the crowd!

Pics by Abi Rose Photography

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