The Swellers – Leeds Cockpit

By paul

As The Swellers keep reminding us, this is their first ever UK show and
they are sure glad to be here. The first date of the Give It A Name tour is
a solo headliner for the Michigan quartet who are quickly gaining a glowing
reputation after album-of-the-year release ‘Ups and Downsizing’. There are
four supports tonight but I missed the first two.

I walked in to an empty venue as Dead Message (I think) take to the stage.
The singer looks like Tom DeLonge circa 1998, the drummer’s topless and in
swim shorts and the bassist looks horrendously uncomfortable on the stage.
There’s a lesson to be learned for bands such as this, especially compared
to All or Nothing and The Swellers. Both of those bands exude confidence
on stage. They look like a band, as well as sound like a band. This
lot sound like Blink covering Green Day, except without the singalongs or
melodies. The only memorable bit is a cover of Sugababes’ ‘About You Now’,
which is butchered by the second vocalist who failed to hit a single note.
Dead Message aren’t a bad band, they’re just painfully average. No better
or worse than every opening band playing every opening show at every local
pub every Friday night. There’s no stage presence, no real choruses and it
just looks like a group of friends having fun playing bad versions of their
favourite songs. Nothing wrong with that, just ain’t gonna get you very
far. (5/10)

All or Nothing have improved immeasurably since I saw them last a few years
ago. They ooze confidence and two or three years of hard touring has
tightened them up no end. Unfortunately the band suffer a few tech problems
– broken drum pedal and poor vocal levels in the mix – which blights their
performance. The lead vocals in particular are too low throughout,
although you can tell the band have upped their game with the dual vox
working well when you can hear them. In truth the band are possibly a
couple of choruses away from breaking through to the bigger leagues and if
they continue to up their game at the rate they are doing that will be
sooner rather than later. A score of 7/10 would have been a bit higher
without the sound difficulties.

And then on to The Swellers and it’s refreshing to see the band set their
own gear up and do it extremely quickly. The band launch into ‘2009’, ‘Fire
Away’ and ‘The Iron’ in their first three songs and it’s very noticeable
the band play things much quicker live than they do on record, which in
turn means some of the subtleties and guitar fills on record just aren’t
there in a live setting. The sound starts off a bit muddy as the vocal
levels are again off, but within four or five songs these are sorted and
the band are flying. The crowd, probably less than 100-strong, is pretty
lifeless throughout apart from one (drunken) soul who gave it everything he
had and more, but a fair few people know the words and sing along. For the
older fans there’s a heavy dose of stuff from ‘My Everest’ with about six
songs played from that record. But the newer material goes down best with
‘Sleeper’ and ‘Do You Feel Better Yet?’ gaining a decent reception. The
Swellers are tight, energetic and extremely confident, as you would expect
from a touring band. They seem genuinely excited to be in the UK and their
on-stage banter is natural and witty. ‘Dirt’ closes things triumphantly
and there’s a knowing smugness that next time The Swellers are over they’ll
be in The Cockpit’s bigger room with a much larger audience. (8/10)