||THE SENSATIONAL POP EVIL SHINE BRIGHT IN HAMMERSMITH IN NOSTALGIC TRIP WITH 3 DOORS DOWN
3 Doors Down/Pop Evil/The Fallen State: Hammersmith Odeon
Words: Luke 'Loki' Milne, Pictures: Dave Craig
90s rock sensation 3 Doors Down brought their headline European tour to the capital city earlier this month, landing in Hammersmith alongside Michigan's fiery five-piece Pop Evil and young hometown act The Fallen State. With front-and-centre seats on the arena's balcony, MetalTalk settled in with an ice cold beer (or six) to take in the night's entertainment.
The Fallen State are first to break the ice on the stage, bringing their own blend of hard rock to the Hammersmith audience. Formed in late 2013 and inspired by Papa Roach and Daughtry, this young UK act have earned an impressive level of success in a fairly short timespan, enjoying supporting slots with the likes of Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm and The Treatment.
The band's performance at the Eventim Apollo makes for an admirable opening act, featuring a hearty vocal performance from frontman Ben Stenning under a catchy musical backdrop laid out by his bandmates. Their sound and style is well-executed onstage and equally well-received by the audience, with a confidence and passion that signals a bright future ahead for the young act. The band's latest EP, 'Crown Your Shadows', features five tracks and is available now to stream and download worldwide.
From the start of the evening, the venue's stage has been adorned with a loud, boldly typecast banner that looms over the audience, sporting the logo for Pop Evil and almost teasing their arrival onstage as the evening's main support act. Formed in 2001, the Michigan hard rock act are no strangers to the stage - and evidently no strangers to the crowd here tonight. The audience explodes with applause as vocalist Leigh Kakaty arrives from backstage, instantly breaking out into the opening tracks of the band's performance.
Featuring a positively versatile set covering a broad range of rock music tropes, Pop Evil's performance whips the crowd into an early storm ahead of the night's headline act. Kakaty demonstrates a confident and engaging stage presence, taking opportunities to break the performer/audience barriers by stepping down from the stage and merging with the crowd during his performance. Lifted high on the shoulders of his fans, the vocalist drives forward with a highly entertaining level of character that serves well to warm things up.
The music of Pop Evil fits the profile of catchy commercial hard rock, in a way that sees them draw all the successful elements of the genre while leaping over the pitfalls experienced by similar acts. In many ways, Pop Evil's montage of hard rock conjures up fond memories of Nickelback's 2008 album 'Dark Horse' - yet unlike the love/hate icon of commercial rock, Pop Evil's hard-edged setlist at Hammersmith doesn't fall back onto a cushion of pop music loveliness, choosing instead to continue on a straight path, keeping the energy high and the mushy stuff firmly locked behind closed doors.
I'll confess to being largely unfamiliar with Pop Evil until their appearance in Hammersmith, yet their confident, well-rounded and professional performance has absolutely captivated my attention. It's always a pleasure to see a band visibly enjoying their time on stage, and Pop Evil certainly seemed to be having fun with their performance. The band's latest studio release, 'Up', saw a healthy level of success in 2015, reaching top ten positions in a number of US Hard Rock charts, and their chunky 80s inspired anthem 'Boss's Daughter' is a personal favourite of mine – a decision that has absolutely nothing to do with the content featured in the track's music video...
In what seems like no time at all, it's time to welcome the main event to the stage. The night's proceedings have all been of a high quality and the anticipation is high for this much-loved rock act. Known for contributions like 'Kryptonite' (released in 2000) and 2003s 'Here Without You', 3 Doors Down featured heavily in my own developing music taste as a young teenager. As such, I'm especially keen to soak up a little teen nostalgia; so too, I suspect, are many of the audience in attendance at the Apollo.
The stage lights up with a bright backdrop of thought-provoking, earthy video footage. Vocalist Brad Arnold arrives on stage to a flood of applause as the band breaks out into their nostalgic and musically satisfying performance. It's clear that the band have enjoyed a number of years of success, as their level of comfort on stage (both in their appearance and performance) is visible even from the high balcony of the Eventim Apollo.
Their set features a wealth of high-quality musical content cherry-picked from the high points of their lengthy career in the industry since 1996, and the crowd set about lapping up every moment with admiration and adoration in equal measures.
Despite thoroughly enjoying their tight and melodic musical performance, it becomes apparent over time that there's something of a barrier rising between the band on stage and their audience below. Conversation between the Arnold and his fans is kept to a bare minimum, with simply a handful of "thank-yous" being passed out to to the audience between tracks.
While the primary function of any band during a live show should be to entertain with their music, there is great importance in metaphorically 'stepping down' from the stage to meet your fans eye-to-eye. It's no secret that performers who take time to speak with their fans, interact and generally work to raise the mood with the offerings of stories or some sense of personality captivate a much more positive response from their audience, and it's something I'm always on the lookout for.
With little engagement from 3 Doors Down during their performance, there's something of a cold lull that drops in at the mid-way point, and I must confess that I found this rather disappointing to experience. Though the musical presence of 3 Doors Down at Hammersmith is highly professional and entertaining, the slightly more subdued nature of their stage presence seemed to take an edge off the overall success of their performance – especially in the wake of the high-energy, jumped-up stage presence served by Pop Evil, who generated a minor frenzy in the atmosphere mere moments ago.
Does this subdued stage presence detract from the audience's enjoyment of 3 Doors Down? Only marginally. We are still presented with a fantastic set of nostalgic hits and high-class, highly enjoyable rock music, and for that, the Mississippi-based band have my personal thanks. Hearing 3 Doors Down dish out a flurry of their classic tracks in a live environment was an absolute treat for the audience, and I'll confess that I broke my usually-very-professional role as an observer during the band's delivery of 'Kryptonite' to loudly sing the lyrics back towards the stage.
I would welcome the opportunity to experience 3 Doors Down performing again in the UK, and will be keeping a keen eye on the horizons where Pop Evil and The Fallen State are concerned. My professional advice to MetalTalk readers? You should do the same, and snap up an opportunity to experience these bands first-hand. I doubt you'll be disappointed.