LIVE: Moose Blood / Choir Vandals / Boston Manor @ The Borderline, London

By Ben Tipple

When Moose Blood frontman Eddy Brewerton revealed his plans to make emo outfit Moose Blood a full-time venture, the reaction was equally as trepidatious as it was excited. With his recent marriage and simultaneous acquisition of a step-daughter (both of whom receive an acknowledgement from tonight’s stage), it was a bold step. Some may even argue a downright dangerous one. Yet towards the end of 2014, the four-piece made a joint decision to focus all their time and attention on the band.
Tonight tests that decision.

The Borderline may not be the biggest venue in the capital – indeed, it barely scratches the surface as far as capacity goes. Yet for Moose Blood, this is their Wembley. It’s evident from the sheer joy on their faces the moment they take to the stage and burst into ‘Pups’. It’s evident in the voices of those returning every word without fail back at the stage. Before all that, it’s evident in the throngs of adoring fans packed into the venue as opening act Boston Manor take their place.

Moving away from their earlier material which in some way mirrors what tonight’s headliners deliver, Boston Manor have adopted a more commercially influenced sound. Not least vocally comparable, the Blackpool based five-piece share a lot in common with Lower Than Atlantis – excluding the recent self-titled record.

There’s a morose force in the vocals that harks back to Mike Duce’s darker material, all the while exhibiting a Real Friends-esque penchant for downbeat pop-punk melody. Tonight they sound more polished than ever, waving goodbye to some of their rougher edge. With the stage divers and crowd surfers warmed up, they hand over to Missouri indie rockers Choir Vandals.

Superficially, Choir Vandals are an odd choice. Arriving in stage in matching suits, and launching into melodies that wouldn’t be out of place on a The Strokes record, they unavoidably cause a dip in atmosphere as the crowd eagerly await the headliners. Unfortunately the experimentation that underpins their sound on 2014’s ‘At Night’ EP is almost non-existent in a live environment – instead coming across as another indie-rock outfit with little ingenuity. Although testament to Moose Blood’s increasing crossover appeal, it sits at odds with the preceding Boston Manor and the Kent based four-piece. With a little more of the quirky nuances evident on record, Choir Vandals could push themselves out of the pack.

Choir Vandals

Moose Blood on the other hand are well ahead of their pack. Having begun life as part of the emo revival machine, they are now raising the flag for the British contingent. With every track in their main set taken from their debut full-length, ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time’ (‘Evening Coffee’ makes a surprise appearance following a late call for more), the voices in the crowd never falter. Eddy Brewerton’s vocals have settled, with less of the Americanisms that garnered early criticism. In the meantime, Moose Blood have seemingly established themselves as regular heartthrobs, with a throng of young audience members gazing from the front row.

This is perhaps due to an underlying honesty that isn’t sacrificed in a live setting – with family dedications preceding ‘Chin Up’ (written after the passing of guitarist Mark Osborne’s father) or ‘Cherry’, leading to a dedication to a particularly proud wife on the stairs.

If Moose Blood had been feeling any trepidation about their decision to take things full-time, tonight’s show – and their national tour – should rightly have put paid to that. Having graduated from the Old Blue Last to The Borderline in a handful of months, it is unmistakably clear that bigger venues await. As Moose Blood’s musicianship, humility and honesty develop, so too does their fanbase.

Moose Blood pass the test.