LIVE: Creeper / Grader / Blood Youth @ Underworld, London

By Rob Barbour

We have our suspicions that many of the reviews for tonight’s sold-out show, upgraded from a sold-even-more-outier Barfly, were written before the venue’s doors even opened. Not literally, of course, but there’s been an undeniable hype machine behind Southampton sextet, Creeper, and an associated narrative which logically leads to write-ups prominently featuring words like ‘triumphant’ and ‘conquering’.

Not to affect any sense of detached cool, as we’ve undeniably contributed to the situation. This writer has waxed lyrical on each of Creeper’s 3 EPs, and their – yes, triumphant – headline show at the OBL last year. But when an industry has decided that a band is blowing up, the hype can cut both ways – they’d have to play remarkably badly to lose the good faith they’ve built up over the last 18 months, sure, but they also have to live up to those expectations.

Continuing to nail their colours firmly to the underground, DIY mast, tonight Creeper sit atop a bill of hardcore bands who are unlikely to be bothering major labels or the Radio 1 playlist in the same way they have. First up are Lincoln mob Blood Youth, who ply a blend of riffs and grooves all brutally overseen by Kaya Tarsus, who’s essentially a hardcore Rob Damiani. The world remains resolutely unignited by their skate-punky take on the genre, but they’re enjoyable nonetheless and leave the stage having no doubt made some new friends.

Coming on like Crocodile Dundee – “That’s not hardcore. This is hardcore” – Aberdeen’s Grader proceed to tear the Underworld limb from limb. Frontman Liam is that rarest of occurrences: an effortless, natural-born frontman. His gravelly, heartfelt vocals elevate the band’s already superior brand of melodic hardcore and overall the band are a captivating spectacle, albeit one whose set was perhaps just a little too long for a crowd here for a somewhat less abrasive main event.

But every one of the over-capacity crowd this evening is here to see – or attempt to see, given the column-crowded clusterfuck that is The Underworld – the considerably poppier Creeper. From the moment they launch into ‘VCR’, there’s no let-up in energy – from the stage or from the pit. The band have been working on their live performance, and it shows. There’s an assured tightness lacking from some previous tours – particularly between bassist Sean and drummer Dan, who’s hitting harder than ever before –  and a new-found strength and confidence in Will Gould’s voice.

When a band is headlining on the back of catalogue consisting of only 15 tracks, they’re going to struggle to spring significant surprises and sure enough, we get pretty much the setlist you’d expect. One of the reasons we’re really looking forward to a full-length album from Creeper is that it will necessarily give rise to the fan favourites and glaring omissions that make the live experience so special.

But the crowd are too busy singing along to every word and flinging themselves from the stage like spook-mosh raggy dolls to care. The inevitable singalong to instant-classic ‘Misery’, from last month’s ‘The Stranger’ EP, can probably be heard from the street above.

Yes, the band’s make-up-and-leather aesthetic is affected and yes, they have been subject to a remarkably successful marketing campaign targeting the same ‘outcast’ demographic who put MCR into arenas. And we’re willing to concede, too, that Gould’s hey-guys-we’re-just-like-you routine could be seen as cloying (if it weren’t absolutely genuine) but when the songs are this good, and the band playing those songs is this good, then it’s just splitting hairs. Long, black-dyed hairs.


Witness the action in our gallery.