LIVE: Papa Roach / Nothing More @ O2 Academy, Bristol

By Penny Bennett

As music fans, we go to live gigs for one of two reasons: to make new memories, or to relive old ones. The sold out Nothing More / Papa Roach show at the O2 Academy in Bristol gave the fans the opportunity to experience both at the same time.

Opening for a legendary band like Papa Roach would inevitably lead to comparisons, but Nothing More grabbed this opportunity by the proverbial horns. The group formed in 2003 and have been clawing their way to success with a hunger and determination that should inevitably lead to deserved greatness. Four albums in, Jonny Hawkins in particular has transformed the band into a behemoth of purpose and ambition after swapping the drums for front man duties. Hawkins has the staggering vocal rage of Justin Hawkins, the serpentine energy of Buckcherry’s Josh Todd and, more intriguingly, the enigmatic and messianic intensity of Jim Morrison. These qualities are bound to make Hawkins an icon in his own right as well as contribute to Nothing More’s continued growth and success with their current album ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’, the pinnacle of their journey thus far.

The Nothing More set was an exercise in shock and awe, with Hawkins sharing intimate anecdotes of addiction, relationships and familial struggles in between each powerful song. The raging crowd howled along to the glorious ‘Go to War’, the instant rock anthem ‘Do You Really Want It?’, and the mesmerising ‘Fade In/Fade Out’, but it was the introduction of The Scorpion’s Tail platform that caused an absolute frenzy. This unique element has become the signature that sets them apart from everyone else. Nothing More are renowned for not doing encores and this performance showed everybody why that is; they leave nothing in the tank, every ounce of energy and dedication is utilised in each brutal performance that leaves everyone breathless and satisfied.

Papa Roach entered and immediately reminded the expectant crowd of their distinct and consummate status. Opening with the career defining ‘Last Resort’ could’ve been a risk, but experience and confidence shone through as the venue erupted in recognition and adoration. Shaddix, Horton, Esperance and Palermo knew exactly what the crowd wanted and withheld nothing. The hits flowed furiously like a hurricane of nostalgia; ‘Falling Apart’ moving into ‘Angels & Insects’,
‘Forever’, and ‘Scars’, with a rapturous response for the more recent addition of ‘Who Do You Trust?’.

The show continued at a breathtaking pace, but it was the first song of the encore that truly brought the boundless magic of music into focus. Papa Roach turned the O2 Academy into a temple of reverence, respect and rage as they performed ‘Firestarter’ in honour of the late, great Keith Flint. The crowd echoed every verse and chorus in memory of one of the industry’s pioneers, and in an instant the crowd was reminded how fragile, yet fundamental our connections with one another are.