LIVE: Yellowcard / Normandie / Kenneths @ Stylus, Leeds

By Matthew Wilson

Trying to wind down a career of almost twenty years isn’t easy. Playing music with the same dudes in sweaty basements, cramped vans and festival appearances for a timespan greater than the age of some audience members must take its toll. So, it’s with an air of grace that Yellowcard have decided to call it a day. But there is also an unspoken urgency to their performance tonight; can they make up for their technically-riddled performance at Slam Dunk this year, whilst also injecting a sense of finality into their last appearances in the UK?

Luckily, Kenneths manage to blow any cynicism away. Their stage presence is just class, the sincerity of their music and commitment to providing a killer punk-rock show despite the odds. When guitarist Josh Weller asks if we’re all quiet “cos uni’s out, or is it ‘cos we’re shit?” at the start of the show, it’s a poke of self-depreciation that is wholly unwarranted. They’ve got guts, especially seeing as drummer Aicha Djidjeli is playing with a broken foot tonight, and all throughout, Weller uses his charisma to brute force the audience over to his side. Their set finishes with him crowd-surfing from one end of the venue to the other.

Unfortunately, for all of the good that Kenneths do to loosen up the evening, Normandie undo this. Let’s just get this out of the way. If you’ve got your own lighting rig and you’re the support band, you need your ego in check. Their brand of derivative Bring Me The Horizon feels so out of place at this gig, and an overly produced, polished pop production doesn’t make up for their shortcomings. Singer Philip Strand tries to prowl the stage like Oli Sykes, but the band’s reliance on cringworthy vocal effects, pointless backing tracks and stale notes of prepackaged crowd interaction makes him just come across like a metalcore Harry Styles. It’s complete style over substance, an unwillingness to do anything other than play it safe, play it the same and play it stale. After the intimate passion of the Kenneth’s opening performance, this just feels cold, empty, emotionless.

So by the time Yellowcard come on, we need something special. And Yellowcard want to give us something special. After a funny but heartfelt request to ask audience members to put their phones away, arguing that “all of these songs are on YouTube anyway, and you won’t get another chance to see them,” Yellowcard jump onstage and launch into ‘Way Away’, the first song of their seminal album ‘Ocean Avenue’. Tonight, they’re here to play the album in full, as they intended to earlier this year at Slam Dunk North, before technical difficulties plagued the set and caused the band to abandon this idea. So tonight, they’re back with a mission – to give their most well known album, their career and their audience the send off they deserve.

Right from the start, this intense energy injects the entire audience, who sing along to every hook, melody and violin part with a fanatic passion. The first two songs alone contain more melodies than the two support acts combined, and Yellowcard’s penchant for catchy melodies have been well honed over the years. When ‘Ocean Avenue’ itself appears three songs into the set, frontman Ryan Key jokingly begs the audience to stay as “we usually close with this one, so people tend to leave after we play it.” This is the energy and passion that Yellowcard deserved, and despite tailing off a bit towards the end of the night, it’s due to no fault of the band, but simply ‘Ocean Avenue’ being front-ended by so many bangers.

As the band come on stage for a four song encore, drawing from singles from elsewhere in their discography and ending on a triumphant ‘Lights And Sounds’, it’s clear that they’ve earned their send off. Whilst the supports seemed like odd choices to celebrate Yellowcard’s legacy, the band proved that they only need to stand on their own accomplishments to be proud of what they’ve achieved. Their unique voice and take on melodic pop-punk is going to be missed, but tonight, they managed to get the entire audience wishing they could turn back time and run forever.

Matthew Wilson