LIVE: American Football / Into It. Over It. @ Shepherds Bush Empire, London

By Glen Bushell

When American Football released their second LP in 2016, they finally took us through the door of the house that adorned their seminal debut 17 years prior. They picked up where they left off and made it feel like just yesterday they become the unintentional poster boys for emotional indie-rock. Nostalgia never felt so good. Their live show has also served as a time warp over the past couple of years, transporting their devotees back to a time of youth, lust, love and heartbreak. Taking all of that into account, tonight’s show should be whimsical walk down memory lane.

Before that, though, it is down to emo torchbearers Into It. Over It. to keep the crowd ticking over until American Football take to the stage. Opting for a stripped back approach, the set tonight is performed solo by Evan Weiss. Few could make it work this way in a venue such as Shepherds Bush Empire, but Weiss makes the venue feel intimate and engages with the crowd the same way he would at the smallest of shows.

His thirty minutes on stage are weighted towards the latter portion of Into It. Over It.’s lengthy back catalogue. Taking ‘The Shaking Of The Leaves’ and ‘Spinning Thread’ back to their acoustic skeletons, and giving extra breathing space to ‘No EQ’ and ‘Closing Argument’ from the 2016 album, ‘Standards’, works wonder for Weiss. It fits the sound that the venue provides and echoes around the cavernous ceiling perfectly. While some might say Weiss has taken Into It. Over It. too far away from the stripped back beginnings, tonight serves as a reminder as to why we fell in love with him in the first place.

As the lights go down, the roar of appreciation that greets American Football is deafening. It almost overshadows the melodious introduction of ‘Where Are We Now?’. The sound is a little off at first with excessive volume on the kick drum, and distracts from Mike Kinsella’s note-perfect vocal. The sound is adjusted as the glorious guitar lines of ‘My Instincts Are The Enemy’ spill from the stage, the introspective narrative of ‘Home Is Where The Haunt Is’ has the crowd hooked on every word.

The problem with tonight, due to American Football opting to play their second record in its entirety, is that the set is less enchanting than expected. That’s not a slight to the playing, of course. Their musical acumen is second to none, and ‘Give Me The Gun’ is probably one of the best songs the band has written. You can’t help but feel, though, that if the set was broken up with more “classics” during the main body of the set, it would have given tonight a more exciting atmosphere.

It’s understandable that American Football would want to play out these new songs. It is no doubt refreshing for them have the chance to do something different, rather than go through the motions. It doesn’t stop the encore of tracks from their first album bringing the house down in grandiose fashion. ‘For Sure’, ‘I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional’, and of course, ‘Never Meant’ dazzle with beauty among a backdrop of delicate lights.

The evening was one of mixed feelings, tremendous highs and disappointing lows. Yet It is obvious that American Football can do no wrong in the eyes of their faithful, and will continue to have much to offer them for a long time.