LIVE: Highly Suspect @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Yasmin Brown

It’s 8pm on a Friday and Brooklyn made Highly Suspect are already kicking off the evening’s events, the track playing them onto the stage at Camden’s Electric Ballroom causing our hearts to thump even harder than the adrenaline and anticipation already has. 

The sparse crowd suggests the early set time hasn’t been well-communicated as tonight’s show was an easy sell out, resulting in an additional show being added the following evening. The floor quickly fills however, as Highly Suspect play themselves onto stage with an extended instrumental before kicking the night off with the ever raucous, ‘Bath Salts’ and here, the real fun begins. 

Immediately those who’ve positioned themselves front and centre lose themselves in the moment, unable to tell one body from another as discarded pints combine with sweat, leaving them drenched. Those on the outskirts clutch to their plastic cups as they bob and sing along, equally as enthusiastic though slightly less chaotic than their peers. 

Wherever you are, the ground shakes beneath our feet as bodies are launched into the air only to land with a messy thud, and eardrums threaten to burst with the sheer magnitude of the music playing out on stage. Tonight’s setlist is only 12 songs long but lasts an easy 90 minutes due to the number of signature instrumental breakdowns that continue to cement Highly Suspect as one of the greatest rock bands of our generation. Riffs play out as fans watch with awe from the pit, enraptured by just how well these musicians fit together, following each others leads without a word after years of practice – an unquestionably well-oiled machine.

Fuelled by Patrón straight from the bottle, the band wastes no time in getting amongst the crowd as front man Johnny Stevens takes a shot before flinging himself into the crowd during ‘Canals’, all but disappearing as fans eagerly engulf him. His bandmates soon follow suit as guitarist Matt Kofos launches himself on top of the sea of hands waiting to catch him during ‘Claudeland’, only to get his shirt ripped in two (“I just bought that!”) by said hands. 

What follows is a moment to breathe as Rich Meyer takes centre stage solo, to play the acoustic ‘Arizona’. While a stunning performance, the chatter that fills the room suggests that most are here for the chaotic energy that Highly Suspect have become famous for but if nothing else, our lungs are back to full capacity just in time for Stevens’ solo performance of ‘Fly’. 

Kicking this off with a short speech, Stevens notes how he’s experienced anxiety and depression most of his life but how nights like these make him feel “fucking awesome” as we show up to vehemently support him and his bandmates. What follows is a stunning vocal performance from Stevens, with the crowd acting as back up vocalists during the chorus of the overtly vulnerable ‘Fly’ as we emphatically remind him just how loved he is.

This short part of the set leaves a cloud of emotion lingering in the air so it only makes sense that the rest of the evening would return with a bang to business as usual, with more instrumentals and mosh pits than you can count. After the soulful vocals in ‘Fly’, Stevens further proves the versatility of his talent during ‘Look Alive, Stay Alive’ during which we get our first live experience of his growl which he tackles with seamless ferocity throughout the choruses. This is just a taste, however, as Highly Suspect return for a one-song encore in the form of the band’s latest release ‘Pink Lullabye’. It’s here where the growls really come to life, and while it may be a left-field choice for an encore, as we file out of Electric Ballroom onto the still sunny streets of Camden, it certainly sees us out on one hell of a high.