LIVE: Against The Current / The Faim @ O2 Forum, Kentish Town

By Gem Rogers

It’s been two weeks to the day since Against The Current started out on the world tour for new album ‘Past Lives’ in Dublin, but tonight at the O2 Forum is a special one; not only is this by far the largest venue of the tour, it’s also the first after the release of the album. It’s not a sold out show, though as the crowds pile in and fill up the various levels of this beautiful old theatre, it can’t be far off– and with an hour and a half before anyone takes to the stage, there’s plenty of time for everyone to find their spot. And then some.

If the crowd have been getting bored with the long wait, they seem all the more enthusiastic for it when support band The Faim eventually appear. Anthemic, poppy and addictive alt rock; these songs are the sort that will stick in your head for days, and the delivery is outstanding. Hand claps and arm waving are order of the day as the Australian four piece play through the entirety of their recently released EP, plus earlier singles ‘Saints Of The Sinners’ and ‘Midland Line’. The musicianship and stage presence of all four make this performance feel like it comes from a band with years of experience– The Faim seem to be on an upward trajectory that more resembles a straight line to the sky, and with performances this enjoyable it’s not hard to see why.

Tours around the release date of an album can be a tricky thing– the potential for fans not knowing any new songs always runs the risk of a show falling flat. Against The Current have remedied this by releasing four ‘Past Lives’ tracks early, and open with two of these– ‘Strangers Again’ and ‘Personal’– before ploughing into their back catalogue. The band also use an interesting approach to stage position, with the three full time members– lead guitarist Dan Gow, drummer Will Ferri, and vocalist Chrissy Costanza– taking to the front, whilst touring members Roo Buxton and Jordan Eckes stand behind to form a semi-circle around the centre. Not that Costanza needs any help drawing the audience’s attention; she barely stops moving for the entirety of the set, with such fluidity and style as to never seem forced or choreographed, and a thoroughly likeable, warm personality shines through between songs.

It would be easy to assume that such a huge amount of movement might result in the quality of the vocals taking a back seat, but nothing could be further from the truth. If Costanza has ever hit a wrong note (and it seems unlikely), it must have been deliberate; tonight, she is nothing short of perfection, with power, passion, and tenderness in equal measure.

What stands out most during this set is the phenomenal difference their live performance brings to all of their songs, from the ‘Gravity’ EP right up to ‘Past Lives’. What can be quite sanitised, muted pop-rock songs become something altogether greater on the stage, with ten times the power and depth of their recorded counterparts. Nowhere is this more noticeable than on recent single ‘Voices’. The juxtaposition of dark lyrics on internal words of self-doubt and self-loathing with an infectiously upbeat riff makes this one of their best tracks to date, and it’s dialled right up to 11 as the guitars find a heavier, biting edge and the bass rattles the floor.

Dominated by the band’s well-honed brand of danceable, empowering pop rock, it’s almost a party from start to finish with a good mix of up and mid-tempo tracks – so the late appearance of ‘Dreaming Alone’ brings the show to a crashing halt, and doesn’t quite fit in. A one-two hit of ‘Demons’ and ‘In Our Bones’, although well received by fans and beautifully executed, also seems to slow things down a little too much, too late in the set. Fortunately, ‘Wasteland’ is the right song to pick the energy back up; a steady beat and anthemic chorus make for a perfect finish to an impressive performance.

Whilst the flow of the evening could be improved by a little set list reshuffling, one thing that’s clear is that Against The Current are a band made for the stage. Their huge, atmospheric music, energetic approach and heartfelt lyrics are perfect for this venue, and it’s easy to imagine it on a festival main stage or arena. Regardless of your feelings on their previous releases, this is a band well worth experiencing live– and if they can successfully translate their live sound to record in future, there’ll really be no stopping them.