LIVE: The Story So Far / Turnstile @ KOKO, London

By Rob Barbour

If Brendan Urie from Panic At The Disco designed a venue, it would probably look¬†like Camden’s KOKO. Its multitude of balconies, prominent disco ball and decadent,¬†burgundy¬†art-deco design strongly¬†evoke the artwork and aesthetic of¬†PATD’s early work, while the theatre itself even hosts a night called ‘Buttoned Down Disco’.

All of which makes Turnstile’s presence this evening that much more confusing. Marrying the brutality and groove of Pantera with the energy and stage-commanding charisma¬†of New Found Glory, the Baltimore quintet come out throwing sonic punches¬†like Blanka from Street Fighter II: indiscriminate and relentless. Sure, they basically seem to be playing the same song for thirty minutes straight – largely thanks to KOKO’s vertigo-inducing height and god-awful sound – but the sheer enthusiasm with which the band attack their songs is joyful. Vocalist Brendan Yates owns the stage for every second he’s on it, cracking out every hardcore dance move in the book then scribbling down a few of his own for good measure.

By bringing Turnstile on tour, The Story So Far have set the bar for their performance intimidatingly high. And it’s a height which, sadly, they’re simply unable to reach. Front man Parker Cannon himself looks like a man reinvented – or a PE teacher on non-uniform day, depending on your perspective – ¬†all smiles, short hair, chinos and a Lampard football shirt. And, as when we’ve seen the band previously, they turn in a musically flawless performance. It’s just that, sadly, The Story So Far are a remarkably unexciting live band.

It’s frustrating because there’s so much potential here. TSSF are¬†deceptively good musicians and deliver the goods¬†in a way that scene legends like the aforementioned NFG, from whose back catalogue they take their name, often fail to do. Cannon’s voice, a nasal shout kept just the right side of melodic, barely falters; riffs and bass runs roll through KOKO’s unforgiving PA system and drummer Ryan Torf is a revelation. Victimised on record by more compression than a Millets three-season sleeping bag, live his playing really comes into its own: precise and rhythmically interesting. But besides Torf and Cannon, no-one is doing anything but just standing there.

Not that being stationary is a problem per se. Stationary¬†works; after all, Oasis conquered the UK’s stadiums¬†by doing a passable impression of their own Madame Tussaud’s waxworks. But The Story So Far come across like a band who’ve spent so long nailing their respective parts,¬†it didn’t occur to them that they’d find themselves performing said parts to 1,500 people a night.

But do the crowd care? Not at all. In fact a large proportion of them would probably offer us out for suggesting TSSF were anything other than life-affirming tonight, so welcoming is their reaction. This band are absolutely adored. Every single person on the sold-out venue’s ground floor is bouncing up and down, while the balconies are packed to the rafters – huge grins on faces, fingers jabbing the air in time to bangers like ‘Things I Can’t Change’ and ‘Heavy Gloom’.

That said,¬†¬†the band’s newer material undeniably pales by comparison to their first album, and there’s a marked shift in mood between the mono-paced efforts from their recent self-titled¬†record¬†and modern classics like ‘Roam’ and ‘Quicksand’. But by the time the band close (tellingly, on d√©but cut ‘High Regard’) they’re leaving behind an enthused crowd hungry for more. We’ve no doubt that next time The Story So Far hit our shores they’ll have taken yet another step up in venue size – just try to look like you actually want to be here next time, eh lads?