There are some comeback tours that were never meant to happen. The 1st John Farnham one was bad, the 3rd abysmal. The K.I.S.S reunion shows where the biggest money grab in modern memory. The reunion tour seems to be a way to flog a long-dead horse until every last cent can be squeezed out of the consumers’ pockets.
That said, I must admit that when I saw that Underoath was coming down under with their own reunion tour, dubbed the Rebirth Tour with founding member and clean vocalist/drummer extraordinaire Aaron Gillespie back in the fold, I was intrigued. The fact that the band would be playing two of hardcore’s classic albums, the post-hardcore masterpiece Their Only Chasing Safety (2004), and the dark, tortured metalcore of Define The Great Line (2006) in their entireties awoke the emo fan inside of me that I thought had perished with my acne and appetite for energy drinks in year 11.
Gone was any scepticism of a cash-grab motive for a comeback. The band’s sudden disbanding in 2013 involved a farewell tour of fewer than 15 shows, most of which saw the gigs being written off due to disinterested and sullen performances. There was unfinished business with their art, and no amount of side-projects could replace the gaping hole left by the band. Everything about this revival felt right, so with my expectations high, I donned my tightest jeans on a 40-degree night and made my way to Sydney’s Enmore Theatre along with 2,500 other punters with fond memories of 2008.
Underoath has a knack for picking unique support acts. When the band announced their comeback run of North America, post-rock sad boys Caspian accompanied the band on a diverse bill. It was a thrill, therefore to see Sydney post-rock masters Sleepmakeswaves score the coveted opening position for the Australian tour, and from the thunderous opening of The Stars Are Stigmata it was clear just how much this gig meant to the band.
For 45 minutes the instrumental group, led mainly by bassist Alex Wilson, tore through a diverse and dynamic set with a sense of joy that I have rarely seen from any live act. Songs such as In Limbs And Joints and Great Northern were performed with passion, whilst new single Tundra provided a sense of a darker, heavier new direction. 2017 is going to be massive for these guys, and the sheer enthusiasm of their live show was infectious.
It was impossible to tell what the crowd was going to be like when Underoath arrived onstage which, for the better part, consisted mostly of 25-35-year-olds who had clearly relied on the band as a source of strength throughout the struggles of an early 2000’s high school life. These weren’t your typical “mosh boys” from the local hardcore scene; however, as soon as Their Only Chasing Safety opener Young And Aspiring heralded the band’s entrance, the floor exploded into a mass of whirling limbs, crowd surfers and circle pits.
It seemed that every song off the 2004 record had been a bucket list song for most people to see since Aaron’s departure from the band five years earlier. A Boy Brushed Red Living Black And White sparked the first mass singalong of the night, while It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door resulted in arguably the biggest pit of the evening, a 10-metre hole opening up in the middle of the Enmore for those willing to risk their noses and jaws.
What was fascinating about the night was just how much both the band and the crowd seemed to adore playing and hearing the songs from Their Only Chasing Saftey. Define The Great Line will arguably go down as the band’s greatest work but for many, Their Only Chasing was a gateway into a wider world of heavy music. Songs such as Down Set Go and I Don’t Feel Very Receptive Today had not only failed to make the cut in the band’s staple sets but had never been played live in the country before. As a whole, the presentation of the record in a live setting was the perfect soundtrack to a simpler time of sun, school and dreams.
On the flip-side, Define The Great Line could serve as the musical backdrop for everything that shat all over our adolescence. Bullying, mental health struggles and substance abuse are all touched on thematically throughout the record, and the result is one of the darkest pieces of metalcore produced. From the opening sounds of the movie reel in In Regards To Myself, the atmosphere changed from one of nostalgic memory to sheer aggression.
As the band dropped the likes of A Moment Suspended In Time and You’re Ever So Inviting, the horde of millennials became more and more frenzied, with crowd-favourite Writing On The Walls sending the 2,000-plus people on the floor surging forward to desperately get their hands on the microphone of lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain as he dived into the crowd.
What makes Define The Great Line such an incredible record is that it doesn’t rely solely on aggression, but it makes use of dynamics to build a canvas of sound that feels vast. Casting Such A Thin Shadow saw Chamberlain pick up a guitar to add to the wall of sound already being produced by Tim McTague and James Smith, whilst Gillespie slowly built the song to its tremendous final climax.
Moving For The Sake Of Motion was the time for drum chops to abound, with Gillespie pulling out a dizzying array of fills whilst holding down the clean vocals, albeit not the same degree of command as 2008, but with more conviction than most singers in the game today. It was an album that challenged the performers more than the listeners, and after pulling off another entire album earlier in the night, the skill and conviction with which Define was performed was admirable.
Despite the 21-song set, which stretched well over the 90-minute mark, it felt far too early to wrap things up when To Whom It May Concern arrived. There was the expectation that Underoath would play by the rules and return to the stage for a more contemporary classic after both albums to really put a stamp on the night. However, one final breakdown and a mic drop were all it took for the band to send the message “We are done. Come and see us next year if you must.” It was an end to a saturated show that, despite providing the dream set for fans, still left punters wanting that little bit extra.
Before tonight began, I told myself that I would never need to see Underoath again after such a lengthy set. Yet despite all the favourites, rarities and premieres, there is that little voice inside me that reminds me why I fell in love with them as a teenager in the first place. Against the odds, Underoath proved to Sydney that they weren’t just a “phase.” Age has only made them better, and given most of the band have only just passed the 30 mark, there could be a few more classic albums in them yet. The energy and passion of their rebirth tour would certainly suggest that there is so much more this band can still deliver if things remain stable.
Until then, fans will be grateful that they finally saw Reinventing Your Exit live, even if it did feel eight years too late.
Image: Hysteria Magazine