LIVE: Creeper @ The Albert Hall, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

Creeper is a cult. Creeper is a tribe. Creeper is an emotion. Creeper is the feeling of belonging.

In what has seemed like an incredibly short space of time, the ‘Callous Heart’ that adorns the back of each member’s jacket has become a symbol of hope. It provides the voice for the voiceless, it lights a path for those that have felt lost, it makes the most painful of days a little easier to get through and unites us all in these testing times.

Generation X had The Cure, the MySpace kids had My Chemical Romance and the millennial era has Creeper. This is not just a band but a movement, all marching under the Callous Heart. In the cavernous Albert Hall, Creeper have welcomed us into their Theatre of Fear. We are gathered to be regaled about the strange case of James Scythe – this is more than a gig, this is a religious awakening.

The converted stand at the altar waiting to be saved once again while the curious gaze on from the gallery. We have love, loss, heartbreak and hope on the menu over the next ninety minutes where the sins will be washed away to squeals of guitar riffs and the thrashing of drum beats.

This is the setting Creeper have been aspiring to in the past 18 months. They effortlessly slot into the rising star role of the punk scene. The sense of theatrical nature behind their entire act is spellbinding from the opening kitsch backdrop of the 1967 Southampton World Fair to our troubled protagonist Scythe being whisked away by Madeline as Creeper make their entrance.

Every note seems supercharged, every syllable thrown back with deafening response by a ravenous audience – this is the home they had been searching for. The freshly coiffured Will Gould looks every inch the modern day incarnation of Robert Smith, serenading his followers with grace and oh-so-slight flamboyance.

Creeper are taking us on a tour of their career dipping into the annals of their EPs with an airing of bruising ‘The Honeymoon Suite’ before bringing us back to the present with the anthemic ‘Suzanne’. While they once called the dive bars and club basements home, the progression into the concert halls has made the sextet’s sound even more grandiose.

The converted hang on every word dripped out of Gould’s mouth screaming it with every sinew left inside them. The front man screeches are beautifully complemented by the calming timbre of keyboardist Hannah Greenwood, perfectly encapsulated on ‘Hiding With Boys’.

Greenwood’s tones provide the tonic to Gould but it is a voice that belies a pain. The stripped back ‘Crickets’ puts the matriarch front and centre, bearing a soul of hurt and delivered with such raw emotion it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed while watching on. Among the chaos that this show delivers it’s an incredible moment of poignancy where you hold the hand of your loved one and squeeze it tight. It feels like you are the only people in the room and everything else in life becomes a side issue. It is such a rare, intimate and beautiful moment to encapsulate.

It is testament to Creeper’s entire aura that they can bring an element such as this to a punk rock show. This, however, is exactly what they are all about. Giving that light of hope to so many who feel left behind and lost. While often the message can sound bleak there is an incredible sense that things will get better.

Their finale could not be more fitting. Initially bidding adieu with the anthemic ‘I Choose to Live’, it is the final hymn of ‘Misery’ that resonates so much. It’s the siren song of the heartbroken, the song which the converted have lyrics tattooed on them and while Gould screams “misery never goes out” style there is an overwhelming sense of positivity.

The lights go up. The converted look around. Friends embrace, strangers exchange numbers, smiles beam across faces, chatter turns to the next stop on the tour. This is their cult, this is their tribe, these are their emotions and this is where they feel most together. The Callous Heart remains strong.