LIVE: Coheed & Cambria / La Dispute / Mewithoutyou @ O2 Forum, London

By Ollie Connors

In this rare spot of good weather Britain is enjoying in late August, it becomes immediately apparent that the O2 Forum is poorly equipped to deal with the temperatures. As Punktastic takes its seat in the Kentish Town sauna, we quickly realise that we won’t just be hot with anticipation at the three bands performing tonight.

However, what a lineup we have. Three bands from wildly different corners of alternative music, representing post-hardcore, indie rock, folk, post-rock and hard rock/metal in differing ratios. First up are Philly’s mewithoutYou, whose recent prodigious touring effort in comparison to recent years ensures they won’t be forgotten amidst that city’s musical renaissance. mwY have been around for about the same length as tonight’s headliners, making it strange that they still find themselves first on 16 years into their career, but the quartet make the most of the time they are allotted.

Their set encompasses a wide sect of their discography, with tracks like ‘Gentlemen’ from 2002’s debut ‘A->B Life’ appearing alongside cuts from last year’s astounding ‘Pale Horses’ full-length, released on the UK’s own Big Scary Monsters. Frontman Aaron Weiss is a constant ball of energy, showing far more effort his “freegan” diet should afford him, his masterful moves putting that guy from Future Islands to shame (remember them?). mwY prove themselves masters of dynamics, their set shifting seamlessly from softer lulls to coruscating intensity. We had never seen mewithoutYou before this year, but as their set comes to a close with ‘Red Cow’, we’re aching to see more.

Further Big Scary Monsters representation comes in the form of La Dispute, who are part of this tour package following their visit to Bristol’s ArcTanGent festival. Their compacted stage setup is minimal in comparison to Coheed later making full use of the Forum’s large stage, but is representative of their music; sparse, tightly-knit and compact.

Whereas mwY used the ebb and flow of their music to full effect, La Dispute ramp up the intensity, vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s masterful storytelling unfurling to the backdrop of angular riffs and unrelenting rhythms. The setlist concentrates solely on tracks from their latter two releases, ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Rooms Of The House’, which is a shame for older fans, but with the emotional gut-punch of tracks like ‘a Letter’ and ‘Woman (Reading)’, it’s easy to see why. The set closer is the tumultuous ‘King Park’ in which Dreyer puts himself in the mind of a drive-by shooter who accidentally murdered an 8-year old, and the impact its closing refrain of ‘Can I still get to heaven if I kill myself?’ looks unlikely to be topped this evening.

However, if there’s a band on earth that can show up a support act, no matter if they’re as good as mewithoutYou and La Dispute are, it’s Coheed and Cambria. The anticipation is electric in the O2 Forum, and Coheed’s fervent fanbase are baying in anticipation of their cult heroes taking the stage. It’s remarkable just how many fans in attendance are wearing Coheed t-shirts tonight from all different eras of their existence; almost like an Iron Maiden show, with the keywork logo (as seen recently at the Olympics) replacing Eddie. Singer Claudio Sanchez and guitarist Travis Stever finally appear to a rapturous reception, starting off with a short acoustic version of ‘Ghost’, then are joined by bassist Zach Cooper and drummer Josh Eppard, who rejoined the band five years ago, and launch into the anthemic title track from ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth 3’.

Like mewithoutYou’s set, Coheed and Cambria visit many corners of their entire canon, with tracks from last year’s ‘The Color Before The Sun’, seen as a return to form by many, slotting in seamlessly alongside old classics like ‘Everything Evil’ and ‘Blood Red Summer’. Coheed are a tour-de-force of a live act, raining riff after riff on a packed out Forum with boundless energy and panache, and Claudio’s unique vocal delivering tales from their alternate comic book universe with just as much passion as ever before.

One slight misstep tonight is a gratuitous cover of Nirvana’s ‘Drain You’ at the expense of one of their own songs, though the band are so good tonight that they can be forgiven for having a little fun, and Sanchez can certainly be forgiven for wanting to sing in Kurt Cobain’s lower register, a welcome break from the high-pitched ‘A Favor House Atlantic’. On their night, Coheed and Cambria are untouchable as one of the greatest live bands on the planet, and as the thunderous ‘Welcome Home’ squeals out its last on Claudio’s double-necked guitar, we leave satisfied (and gasping for cooler air) that we’ve seen the band on their very best form. This latest incarnation of the band seems extremely settled, and as they leave their themed album arc behind, who knows what’s next for Coheed and Cambria? With an established fanbase as fervent as theirs, world domination is surely not far off.