LIVE: letlive. / Night Verses @ Electric Ballroom, London [17/10/13]

By Ben Tipple

Earlier this year, LA’s energetic mad-ball rockers letlive. released the follow-up to 2010 (or 2011’s depending on how you want to look at it) seminal record, ‘Fake History’. ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ achieved all it needed to –honing the relationship between the convulsive off-kilter moments and the melody driven choruses. It may not have celebrated the same explosive impact on the circuit as their debut Epitaph record, yet it saw the golden state quartet firmly cement their sound and expel persistent one-trick pony notions. Yet, whether this maturation was mirrored in a live environment was to be seen.

letlive. have enjoyed praise and discontent in equal measures for their onstage antics. Frontman Jason Butler is renowned for his insatiable ferocity on stage, alongside his sometimes bizarre ramblings preluding tracks. This ferocity makes for one hell of a spectacle, but has over time led to an inevitable downslide in vocal quality. Each letlive. show ended with bewildered fans questioning the merits of visual performance over sound.

Before letlive. can at the very least attempt to shake off these comparably recent demons, it is Night Verses that dive into the spotlight. With their blend of hardcore meets Glassjaw circa 2002 sounding infinitely more distinguishable in a live setting, they are momentarily one of those bands who need to be seen live to fully appreciate.

Despite some questionable sound levels (the drum and bass almost entirely overshadowing the guitar and vocals at various points), there is an undeniably unique element to their direction. Frontman Douglas Robinson’s occasional missed note encourages this rather than damaging the overall performance. Although removed from the sound generated by the headliners tonight, Night Verses follow in their footsteps by being, at least, immediately intriguing.

letlive. don’t take any time in dispersing possible criticisms regarding their sound. Any concerns are all but vanquished moments into opener and lead single ‘Banshee (Ghost)’. Butler has evidently toned down his stage antics with an immediate positive impact on his vocals. There are still more stage dives, crowd surfs and general acrobatics than any other band would dare to include, but gone are the days where Butler would entirely disregard the microphone in favour of frivolity.

The setlist covers ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ almost in its entirety, leaving just ‘H Leger’, ‘Muther’ and the seriously anthemic ‘Day 54’ to rear their heads during the main set. Demonstrating an awareness of their material, crowd favourites ‘Le Prologue’, ‘The Sick, Sick 6.8 Billion’ and ‘Renegade 86’ – all from ‘Fake History’ – complete the encore. Although not hindering the flow of the performance, it doesn’t seem necessary to split the material so definitely, as tracks from the newest album sound equally as rampant alongside the old.

letlive. may have gone some way to prove their staying power with ‘The Blackest Beautiful’, but tonight they permanently eradicate any question of their relevance or ability. The dent they created in the scene by their unprecedented arrival is still there, and still rightfully theirs – a revelation to those who had verged dangerously close to writing them off as a simple expendable commodity. By finding the balance between explosiveness and unrivalled performance, letlive. remain a force to be reckoned with.