As It Is @ Arts Club, Liverpool - 07.03.19 / Louder Live
Making a dramatic departure from your previous sound and forging a daring new path of creativity can, in this day and age, spell disaster for even the most successful of bands. If new music is not what fans of the band expect to hear from them, many long-time supporters can abandon their favourite artists without a backwards glance. Therefore, the decision by Brighton pop punk quintet As It Is to entirely overhaul their sound and image for their latest album, ‘The Great Depression’, was as gutsy as it was inspired. Following straight up from their 2017 album ‘Okay.’, the band have embraced a much darker aesthetic with this record, tackling, in their songs and in their stage show, the glamourisation and romanticisation of mental illness and suicide that has been worryingly present in the alternative music scene for several years. It was a dangerous leap into the unknown that has paid off in dividends for the band- with a whole new wave of supporters joining their cause, and a bolstered live show that is more daring and dramatic than ever before, this new-and-improved As It Is are undoubtedly here to make their lasting mark on the alternative rock scene. For now though, after completing a mammoth US tour already this year, As It Is have set out on a series of intimate dates across the UK to reconnect with their roots, and pay tribute to the intimate circle of long-time fans who have helped push them to the heady heights they are soaring at today.
Opening up the show at Liverpool’s Arts Club were local pop punkers Crossroads, whose classic chuggy guitars and heartfelt lyrics were a stark reminder of where As It Is began their own career many years ago- a promise of the potential that is possible for a band with that self-same onstage chemistry and talent for potent lyricism. Following on behind were London boys Bellevue Days, whose happy-go-lucky onstage demeanour and crackling melodies that ebbed and flowed with impressive dexterity were a pleasant surprise. Closer ‘Ripped Jeans’ was a particular highlight, with its wrenching lyrics and pummelling bassline in the chorus that sent pulses and ripples through your chest, so powerful it tickled every hair up your arms! The smoke that poured onto the stage during the opener of main support act, Modern Error’s slot was a highly apt metaphor for their set as a whole- entrancing an atmospheric, yet at times became a little impenetrable, and slightly abrasive to the more delicate constitutions of some of the audience members. Nevertheless, the introduction of greater elements of light and shade towards the end of their set meant Modern Error left the stage and the crowd primed and ready for the arrival of the night’s headliners.
If the bands who preceded them had been a reflection of the constituent elements of As It Is’ previous and current soundscapes, the band themselves brought all those elements together in harmonious yet monumental fashion. Opening with a burst of searing red light, the band plunged straight into their latest album, ‘The Great Depression’s lead single, ‘The Wounded World’, and the previously stagnant crowd erupted into a maelstrom of waving limbs and writhing bodies! The album’s title track, ‘The Great Depression’, followed, with its cantering chorus that drips in mocking sarcasm and powerful spoken-word bridge, where each syllable hits you like a bullet to the gut. Being in the pit felt as if you were a pinball being thrown around a pinball machine, through the swooping crunch of ‘The Fire, The Dark’ and into ‘The Handwritten Letter’, where the echoes of the fans voices that are woven in and around the melodic bridge crept out over the crowd- a subtle, refracted image of the much wider fanbase that extends far beyond the confines of the cramped furnace of the room itself.
While much of the set was, naturally, drawn from their latest record, the crowd were also treated to a spattering of songs from across their discography, the particular highlights being the flashbacks to their first full-length record, 2015’s ‘Never Happy, Ever After’. The screams that heralded the introduction of their first huge single, ‘Cheap shots and Setbacks’ were beyond deafening, ringing out even over the sprightly guitar line and crisp opening bass notes! Heartfelt romantic ode ‘Winter’s Weather’ was also an unexpected yet superbly received surprise, with its soft, ethereal vocals in the bridge and lighter-waving, rippling choruses. Perhaps the most enormously resonant moment of the evening, however, came with the revival of an acoustic track many thought was confined to merely memory- the heart-wrenching ‘You, the Room, and the Devil on Your Shoulder'. Patty’s introduction to the song explained why the band thought it fit to revive the song now- ‘When I was writing ‘Never Happy,’ he spoke softly, as the whole room held its collective breath ‘I didn’t think thing were ever going to get better. Now I wish I could go back to 2014 me and tell myself just how much better things were going to get.’- at which the room erupted into a hailstorm of cheers and screams from the enraptured crowd. The track itself twinkled with a delicate poignancy, so much so that it dragged tears from the eyes of many in the room, as the hearts of each person beat in a moment of pure, distilled unity. Followed up by its counterpart from ‘The Great Depression’, ‘The Question, The Answer’ was the perfect flip-side of the coin to ‘You, the Room…’: an affirmation that while those feelings of pain and suffering that spawned both tracks may never totally fade, there is always a choice to be made and a light to be found, even in the inkiest darkness.
Despite the waves of emotion that poured through the room, in true As It Is style, the night could not end with anything other than a raucous celebration of wild abandon! And it surely did. The band’s favourite closer for many years, ‘Dial Tones’ has recently been bumped from its position at the peak of the night’s crescendo, yet the flurry of crowd surfers and swinging fists was no less virile for it, stretching the capabilities of the security to their limits! It was a beautiful expression of joy in the face of darkness, one that only built when new closer ‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)’ came hurtling in. It’s juddering bass and rolling drums sent shivers of tension through the room, which exploded into the oscillating final chorus, leaving the room dripping in sweat, yet indisputably, unequivocally jubilant. This is what music is all about- creating joy in darkness, happiness from pain, and bringing people together to defy the status quo, challenge ideologies, and forge their own paths back into the light.
‘The Great Depression’ is out now via Fearless Records.
Check out the video for ‘The Fire, The Dark’ below:
As It Is still have several dates left of the Intimate Depression Tour- dates can be found below:
As It Is: