LIVE: Citizen / Big Jesus @ The Lexington, London

By Glen Bushell

When the annual event of the Reading and Leeds Festival take place, it can often leave those who are unable to attend a little deflated by the prospect of missing some of their favourite bands. However, it does mean that some bands are able to play intimate warm-up shows in the run up to the biggest end of summer party, providing fans the opportunity to reap the benefits of seeing a rising band like Citizen in a setting they may not experience again for some time.

Whether is down to the searing heat outside, or the crossover with the aforementioned festivals, the small confines of The Lexington are perhaps not as full as they should be. That doesn’t stop openers Big Jesus from making their presence felt. Coming over all the way from Atlanta for their first ever UK tour before the release of their debut album is a bold move for any band, but the music Big Jesus play is so infectious, you feel like you have known these songs your whole life.

The quartet make the most of the great sound that The Lexington provides, filling every inch of the room with thick, fuzz driven riffs through ‘Always’ and ‘SP’. On paper, a warm rhythm guitar tone and hard-rock, treble-heavy lead lines shouldn’t work together, but it somehow does. Combine that with a powerful rhythm section, and Spencer Ussery’s ethereal, hazy vocal that drifts through ‘Lock & Key’, you get one of the most exciting new bands in recent memory. With their debut album, ‘Oneiric’, set to drop at the end of September, you can expect to hear much more from Big Jesus.

At this stage in their career, Citizen need no introduction, quantified by the cheer that greets the Midwestern alternative-rock heartbreakers as they arrive on stage. They waste no time in getting down to business, churning out anthems ‘Roam The Room’ and ‘Figure You Out’. Regardless of these tracks being considered “lighter” on record when compared to the brute force of ‘Silo’ or the melancholic narrative of ‘Numb Yourself’, each track is filled with raw power and emotion.

Sonically, Citizen are on top form. Mat Kerekes impressive vocal-range improves year on year, and even with Ben Russin of Title Fight covering drum duties this evening, they are one of the tightest live units currently doing the rounds. The quieter, delicate moments of ‘Yellow Love’ are stirring, the lurching low-end tone of ‘Cement’ earth-shattering, and the major-key melodies of ‘The Night I Drove Alone’ really soar.

Despite the fact that there seems to be less energy in the room tonight compared to their sold out headline show at The Dome back in January, it really is all about Citizen’s performance tonight. It will no doubt be time for them to wrap up the touring cycle of their 2015 album, ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’, and plan their next move. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, but all the signs are pointing upwards.