Gig Review: Grey Daze / North Atlas / High Regard – KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton (17th May 2024)

In the midst of 2020, Grey Daze, a band thought lost to time emerged from the shadows with an album of alternative rock which was a welcome dose of modernity and four years later with another record to their name, they still sound like they’re from the 21st century. Except, for the twist in this tale – they’re not. Grey Daze was a band which featured one Chester Bennington before he left to join Linkin Park and the rest, as they say, is history. Now with two albums to their name with Bennington’s original vocals and reworked instrumentation, they’re finally making their UK debut with the #ForYouChester tour.

High Regard are our openers on this Friday night and as soon as they take their marks, they’re intent on making it a memorable start. The alt/pop rock blend is delightfully contemporary, bolstered by the electronic backing melodies, drums bouncing around them and the driving bass working in tandem. That combined with the clean yet jagged riffs from the lone guitarist allow for sophisticated yet catchy and accessible lyrics. They’re vibrant and energetic from the first note to the last with all of them using every inch of the stage and it’s impossible to take your eyes off them. Slick as hell, it’s no wonder that as they perform, the audience warms up to them and judging by the behaviour of one person in front of me, they appear to be a pre-existing passionate fan – something that you love to see and something an opener would definitely appreciate. If they’re ever passing through the Midlands again, I’ll be sure to catch them.

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It’s been some time since I saw fellow Scots North Atlas and whilst they didn’t get a fair evening through no fault of their own (but rolled with the punches) when they opened for Anchor Lane, tonight, they’re taking no prisoners. They push us into a far heavier end of the alternative realm, bringing in hints of industrial soundscapes and a good dollop of aggression. While there seems to be some technical issues again tonight, they’re consummate professionals with the guitar coming back in flawlessly following a swap and quick re-tuning. Hints of Scottish accent come out in the vocals and even without this, you can hear hints of early Biffy Clyro when they were full of rage and noise. Like their predecessors, they’re a stupidly tight band, making most of their time on stage, clearly comfortable on such a large stage but much like last time, I’d love to see what they could do in a packed sweaty club venue. Over a year since the last time I saw them, they’ve come on leaps and bounds, more comfortable in their skin and know how to utilise their 90s and 00s influences to their advantage for a contemporary sound.

Sean Dowdell and Cristin Davis make their way onto the stage before being joined by Cris Hodges in time for his first vocals. This is Grey Daze in 2024. However, tonight they’re a trio with the elephant in the room addressed early in proceedings. Bassist Mace Beyers is missing in action due to a family emergency the previous week and is back home in the States. Hodges is keen to show Beyers is missed with recording a video and whatever the situation is, hopefully things are looking better for him and his family. Despite the lack of live low end, it’s fed in through the PA, likely via an SPD or something similar (I couldn’t see anything on Dowdell’s drum kit from my angle) so they’re able to remain faithful to their body of work.

Of course, reviewing (and performing in the case of the band) a show like this would be impossible to do so without mentioning Bennington. Hodges works well with the material he’s been given, faithfully rendering it in the live setting without emulating, making it his own whilst respecting one of the most iconic singers of the modern age. And just like him, he’s an exceptional frontman, dynamic and able to command the crowd, playing to everyone in the room as an individual yet conducting them as if playing to a sold-out arena. He takes his time to mention Bennington at a couple of points without labouring it and feeling heavy-handed, and most importantly, it’s genuine.

As the band balance their hard-hitting alternative numbers with more sombre songs, it’s in these tender moments where they create a memorable evening for people. Hodges climbs down to the barrier to deliver a moving rendition of “In Time”, his screams etched with the same angst as Bennington. Elsewhere, “Soul Song” brings in Bennington’s vocals for the final stretch of the track. Such an unexpected move blindsides the crowd momentarily before Hodges finishes the song, effectively duetting with Bennington and allowing the departed vocalist to put in his own appearance in a touching tribute.

Meanwhile, the lone cover of the night (and one of the many highlights) is “Anything Anything”, dedicated to someone in the crowd and it’s here where I learned it was a cover. Having checked out the Dramarama version, it’s safe to say Grey Daze have the better version, more passionate and sincere than the whiny, post-grunge original. Despite the missing Beyers, the trio are an excellent unit together and you’d think this band had been together for decades. Davis nonchalantly plays the riffs with a precise manner without becoming clinical about it, managing to inject emotion into every note. And Dowdell, as the lone original member, keeps it all together from the back, exuding panache as he batters his drums, balancing restraint with technicality and managing some backing vocals for good measure.

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There’s a morbid curiosity to know where this band would sit had Bennington not passed away. However, no matter what happens next, it’s safe to say the people on stage honoured this part of his career with grace and respect. Personally, I’d love to see them come back, hopefully with Beyers so we get the full treatment. But if it never happens again, I’ll be glad to know we at least got it once.

Grey Daze: officialfacebook | twitter | instagram | youtube

North Atlas: officialfacebook | twitter | instagram | youtube

High Regard: facebook | twitter | instagram | threads | youtube | bandcamp

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