Live Review: Comeback Kid, Counterparts, Backtrack, The Greenery

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On Saturday May 10th, I had the privilege of attending Comeback Kid’s headlining tour stop in London, Ontario, thanks to the fine people over at Canada’s own Distort Records. This would be my first time seeing the band live since their 2011 headliner rolled through Kitchener, which featured support from Title Fight and Counterparts. That was a fantastic show, so I knew without a doubt upon seeing this tour announcement that this was going to be a fun experience.

The first thing that struck me about this show was the venue choice. The London Music Hall is a massive room with a maximum capacity of nearly two thousand. It’s directly connected to Rum Runners, which is operated by the same people, and has a much more modest capacity of about three hundred. I had mistakenly believed that this show would be taking place at Rum Runners up until the moment I was entering the venue, since even the biggest hardcore bands tend to only draw numbers in the mid-hundreds. I got there early, and began to fear that the huge room was going to remain empty, making for an awkward show for the bands and the people in attendance. I’ve seen it happen before, and it sucks. Luckily, in this instance my fears were unsupported. The crowd began to thicken throughout local openers Icons’ set, and the venue staff made clever use of some big black curtains to split up the room, making it feel more cosy. I tend to prefer smaller venues, but the London Music Hall looks and sounds exceptionally awesome, so it has become a new favourite of mine. Plus, it’s clean.

The first band on the tour package was The Greenery from California – or as they introduced themselves: “Metallica”. Trolling aside, these dudes’ music is hard as nails, and they started going wild from the moment they played their opening note. They’re one of those bands that really capitalize on using thick, beefy tones, a la Nails or Black Breath, and are more about pummeling the listener’s senses than crafting coherent melodies or song structures. The vocalist put everything he had into his performance; his stage presence actually reminded me a bit of Sam Carter of Architects. I hope he takes that as a compliment. This band left a serious impression on me, and has motivated me to familiarize myself more with their discography. I sincerely hope I get to see them again sometime in the near future.

Due to Alpha & Omega being unable to play on this tour, Backtrack were the package’s second band to perform. These guys are a straight-up east coast hardcore band, and they know it. The vocalist was getting more exercise throughout their set than I do during most of my workouts, and put a serious amount of effort into getting the crowd as stoked as possible. Backtrack don’t just encourage crowd participation – they demand it. Watching these guys was very entertaining; I particularly enjoyed the songs selected from Lost in Life, their most recent LP. If you’re into old-school hardcore, definitely check these guys out live if the opportunity presents itself.

The evening’s penultimate act was Counterparts. This is my favourite band, and over the years I have established some rapport with their vocalist, so I won’t try to instill a pretense of impartiality here. These guys killed it, as usual. This was the first time I’ve seen them since the departure of bassist Eric Bazinet, and despite the personnel changes the band have had to endure, they put on an a very tight and spirited performance. I really like that they’ve started to loop guitar tracks while changing tunings in between songs. This keeps up the energy and sense of  momentum, making the whole set feel much more smooth and cohesive. I was also pleasantly surprised to see drummer Kelly Bilan performing the clean vocals at the end of “Outlier”. He nailed them, and I hope he continues to sing the part live in the future. In fact, I was a bit surprised that he chose not to do the clean vocal parts during “Wither” and “Compass”, since he had done such a good job earlier in the set. Nonetheless, Counterparts put on a great show, saw an admirable crowd reaction, and made me feel totally justified in owning a ridiculous amount of their merch.

Comeback Kid were the night’s headliners. These guys are veterans of the hardcore genre, and enjoy near-unanimous respect among audiences. This Canadian run serves as the official Die Knowing album release tour, and is the live setting in which many of the record’s tracks will be inaugurated. The album has already seen a significant amount of critical acclaim, and this night’s audience was highly receptive to hearing new and old songs alike. London enjoys some serious credibility in the 519 area for its hardcore scene, and I’m happy to report that Comeback Kid’s set was greeted by a very healthy dose of moshing and hardcore dancing, which remained entirely free of bullsh*t (read: fighting/any form of “pit beef”), with every person in the room appearing to engage with the music and have a good time. I was excited to see how well “Wasted Arrows” went over live, since it’s one of my favourite tracks off the new record, and of course was stoked to hear CBK certified classics like “Broadcasting” and “Do Yourself a Favour”. I will note that I would have liked to hear some of the band’s more melodic material, such as “Unconditional” or “Didn’t Even Mind”, especially since this show featured such a hardcore-centric lineup. A brief change in tone would have been appreciated, and as headliners the band shouldn’t shy away from exploring their discography a little bit more. That being said, Comeback Kid put on an intense and consistently energetic performance. This was one of the most fun shows I have attended in recent months, and if you’re a Canadian hardcore fan, you owe it to yourself to catch this lineup if/when it comes to your area.

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