It’s hard to quantify exactly how huge The Amity Affliction are in their native Australia. On a typical European tour, they’ll play to a couple hundred people. I don’t mean to diminish that achievement. That’s no mean feat in a country that’s literally on the other side of the world. It’s just that tonight they were playing at Luna Park’s Big Top in front of 4,000 people. Further, this was just one night on their Brothers In Arms tour, with support from US deathcore dudes Chelsea Grin and Californian hardcore mainstays Stick to Your Guns.
First up, though, were Amity’s UNFD label-mates In Hearts Wake. Hailing from Byron Bay, the same hippy town that brought us Parkway Drive, they hit the stage hard, in an awkward kind of way. They usually only play shows on small pub stages and they seemed really unsure of what to do with the space afforded by the Big Top’s cavernous interior. Still, they’re legit dudes who played tight and fun. Frontman Jake Taylor’s vocals are much rawer and bestial than when I saw them in November last year, while bassist Kyle Erich’s glorious clean vocals were pitch perfect, especially during the rarely-played “Inertia (The Hermit)”.
Playing a set comprised almost entirely of songs from their 2012 LP Divination, the only exception was the newly released charity song “Skydancer”. If you aren’t aware, it’s a pay-what-you-want system with 100% of the funds going to charity. It’s an awesome initiative and you should totally get in on it.
Up next were hardcore legends Stick to Your Guns. Like a true hardcore band, they had the most energy of the night and just slammed the show into a higher gear. They definitely knew what to do with the space better than In Hearts Wake and they just threw the whole venue into a frenzy of moshing and two-step. ‘Twas awesome. They were accepting, lighthearted, welcoming and genuinely appreciative of their fans and that just made Chelsea Grin all the more disappointing.
Okay, so Chelsea Grin are very heavy. They live by the mantra of ‘I have breakdowns, therefore I am’. As a result, they were great for the first two songs and then became unbelievably boring. I don’t know their songs from a bar of soap, but I could predict exactly when the breakdowns were coming. That’s not good songwriting. Also, I’m really sorry boys, but apart from Alex Koehler, who screams like a meth-addicted bear with a pool cue in its urethra and prowls the stage like a ghoul, you guys are boring. Shoe gazing just won’t cut it on an arena-size stage. Full credit to Koehler, though, he absolutely killed it. Better luck next time, boys.
Finally, the moment we’d all been waiting for. Multiple sold out arena tours and an album that hit #1 on the Australian mainstream charts, The Amity Affliction slammed us from the word go with a fantastic mix of old and new songs. They commanded the stage like the seasoned professionals they are, full of energy and tight musicianship. Frontman Joel Birch’s vocals seemed a little worn out, but he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Meanwhile, clean vocalist/bassist Ahren Stringer was pitch perfect and didn’t stop moving at any stage. Guitarist Troy Brady and drummer Ryan Burt just destroyed the place as well, while their session guitarist just chilled side of stage, collecting his pay.
The lights were incredible, the mix was flawless and the set was impeccable. They played songs off every album, including fan favourites “Fruity Lexia”, “I Hate Hartley” and “RIP Bon”, even throwing in an awesome cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die”. Finishing with “Chasing Ghosts”, they came back on for the obligatory encore with their opus “Open Letter”.
The doors opened, the lights came on and while the punters left bloodied & bruised but elated, I stopped to consider what I’d just witnessed. The Amity Affliction will never overtake Parkway Drive as Australia’s premier heavy band, but dammit, they’re not far off. The eternal bridesmaid, they need a bit of an attitude change to ever attain that kind of success, but judging by tonight’s reception, they’ll be playing these kinds of arenas all over the world before too long.
The Amity Affliction Set List
I Hate Hartley
Born to Die (Lana Del Rey cover)
Fire or Knife
Bondi St. Blues