LIVE: Acres / Parting Gift / Captives @ Key Club, Leeds

By Gem Rogers

Festival season may now be becoming a distant memory, but there’s always an upside to the long, sunny days of summer disappearing – mostly that it means the return of gig season, spending our evenings in darkened rooms with some of our favourite bands (and, probably, a few pints). Tonight, the sweaty paradise of Leeds’ Key Club is playing host to one of the strongest lineups of 2019, as three of the UK’s finest rising alternative bands take to the stage.

Opening proceedings in their hometown are metalcore influenced post-hardcore group Captives, a band whose name is becoming increasingly familiar (and this is far from a bad thing). It’s barely a year since the band formed and released debut single ‘Ghost Like You’, but they’ve already toured extensively around the UK and Europe, and the experience is showing – their solid live performance has continued to improve, and is now as tight as it is explosive. The passion driven into every word and note of these songs is evident, and with songs as powerful as ‘Not Enough’ and ‘Find A Way’ – topped off by the kind of breakdowns dreams are made of – Captives are without question a band to watch as we head into 2020.

Another band who’ve done their fair share of touring this year, including a memorable slot on Download’s Avalanche Stage this summer, Manchester’s Parting Gift bring a very different energy to the room with their atmospheric post-rock. Like Captives, their performance is one that has evolved significantly through 2019 – where once front man Zac Vernon was introverted and static, he now seems far more at home under the lights, and his brooding, soaring vocals are as impressive as ever. There aren’t too many big hooks on offer here, though when they do appear in tracks like ‘Without Sin’, we see Parting Gift at their very best, and we look forward to seeing more of it as they continue to grow.

The first tour following the release of a debut album is undeniably an exciting time in any band’s career – even more so when your debut album is as impressive and well received as Acres’ ‘Lonely World’ was when it landed in August this year. Though they’re no strangers to the stage by this point, this headline tour is the quartet’s first chance to really showcase the tracks from their album, and they waste no time in doing so.

As instrumental opener ‘Deathbed’ feeds into the intense, hard-hitting ‘Medicine’, there’s an inescapable feeling of warmth filling this small room – and not because of the obviously increasing temperatures. The lyrics of these songs may often seem sombre, but the atmosphere generated by the depth of the guitar work and emotion in front man Ben Lumber’s vocals is infused with an embracing power, one that makes this 40 minute show feel like a collective journey towards hope.

Although it is naturally the focus, tonight isn’t all about ‘Lonely World’; time is still given to early EPs and singles in the form of tracks like the soaring ‘In Sickness & Health’, and these are exceptionally well received by a crowd that seems full of dedicated and long-time fans. It’s the new tracks that shine the brightest, though, with ‘Lonely World’ and ‘Talking In Your Sleep’ forming an almost overwhelming centrepiece in the set. They both, coupled with pulsing lighting that often leaves the band in silhouette, take on a whole new level of ethereal and heartwrenching beauty in their live performance, perfectly balanced between driving heaviness and melody.

If there’s a negative to be found, it’s only that nearly three weeks of continual touring across Europe has begun to take its toll on Lumber’s voice – many of these songs are vocally challenging at the best of times, let alone when there’s no chance to rest for such a long time, and the strain can very much be heard in places. That said, there is clearly no lack of ability to hit the notes, and Lumber puts every ounce of himself into this performance to deliver something that is still staggering – without that tiredness to battle, this would be close to perfection.

It’s easy to see why this kind of atmospheric post-hardcore is surging in popularity, particularly this year; with the ability to connect with the darkest sides of us and fill it with light and colour, it makes for music that is utterly enriching, and Acres are truly gifted at capturing the best elements of it in their own unique sound. This is a performance that is as haunting as it is compelling, the kind that cements itself in memory long after the evening ends. This feels like only the beginning of an exciting future for Acres, and they are exactly the kind of band our hearts need – long may they stay there.

GEM ROGERS

Click here for the full gallery from this show.