LIVE: Cartel / Cardinals @ Islington Academy

By Tamsyn Wilce

Cartel are a band that despite having a strong fanbase that has lasted throughout the years, have never really hit their peak over in the UK. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of their debut full-length ‘Chroma’ they returned to London for one date only, to say farewell and thank you.

The opening act was originally meant for Welsh alternative rockers Samoans, but unfortunately they had to pull out last minute due to being stuck in the painful London traffic. Their Welsh pals in Cardinals therefore brought their set forward, despite having only made it with ten minutes to spare themselves.

The pop-punk quartet did their best to energise the somewhat empty room, but struggled to leave any sort of impression on the uninterested people there. Herein lies the issue with special album shows, nobody really gives a damn about anything, or anyone else playing and Cardinals didn’t receive the welcome they deserved. They played a satisfactory set, but there was something a little lacklustre about the performance and we can only hope that next time we see them will be under better circumstances.

However, despite the disappointing start to the evening, as the clock ticked nearer to the arrival time of Cartel the venue packed out, full of fans of all ages, men in suits who were here to re-live their youth and the younger ones who are still living it. Cartel have a career that spans over a decade now and they’ve picked up a variety of fans along the way. To this day ‘Chroma’ is still perhaps the bands most significant album, it kicked off their career and highlighted them as important game players in the pop-rock scene, so it’s only right that the UK gave it justice and waved this band off for the final time.

‘Say Anything (Else)’ kicked things off and instantly the crowd woke up, arms were raised and sing-a-longs were huge. From then on, things only got bigger and better as the anthemic treats of ‘Burn This City’, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Settle Down’ created a swarm of bouncing bodies and pumped fans who it would seem, had been waiting for this very moment for a long time.

Perhaps the most emotionally powerful song on the album, also produced a spine tingling moment live. Played completely stripped back, the delicate piano melody of ‘Save Us’ echoed around the building, people swayed, blokes had their arms around each other and for five minutes we all witnessed a truly special moment that filled us with the sadness that this is the last time we’d see Cartel play with such passion.

The final segment of ‘Chroma’ took things down a notch from the energetic pop-rock hits that begun the evening, with ‘The Minstrel’s Prayer’ leading into ‘Q’ and finally ‘A’. The emotion within each track though was really quite overwhelming and without a word unsung by the crowd, it was the send off ‘Chroma’ and Cartel truly deserved. An encore of material from the rest of their back catalogue was of course welcomed, but nothing was going to beat hearing ‘Chroma’ in full. It’s a shame Cartel have made the decision not to return to these shores, but we salute them for continuing on so unpretentiously. Farewell Cartel, you shall be missed!