I arrived on Friday night to unexpectedly find the whole area had been set alight for the Alive and Ablaze event, marking the official opening of the new square outside the Guildhall. As fans began to congregate around the main doors I began to feel like I was entering an abattoir. This wasn’t prompted by the open flames and industrial artwork filling the square, but the animalistic squealing of hundreds of overexcited pre-pubescent teens.
After bursting onto the stage with ‘Love Drunk,’ followed by ‘Heels Over Head,’ my first impression of Boys Like Girls was one of severe creepiness. Their disturbing antics ranged from amusing – lead singer Martin Johnson and guitarist Paul DiGiovanni stand face to face spraying water into each other’s open mouths – to downright cringe worthy, when Martin Johnson started randomly pointing out twelve year olds shouting, “Boys Like Girls are gona steal your girlfriends!” to the bemusement of many accompanying thirteen year old boys. That said, it’s all (hopefully) part of the act, and judging by the ear piercing screams of delight from the crowd Boys Like Girls’ suspect actions hit the mark perfectly. The music itself was a bit repetitive, a particular low being the acoustic version of ‘Thunder,’ an attempt at an arm swaying sing-along that elicited a confused response from the crowd. That said, when they were able to follow what was happening the teenagers in the crowd hung on Boys Like Girls every word, and if their target audience loved it, who am I to complain?
Kids in Glass Houses were a completely different story. Although they interacted with the crowd as much as Boys Like Girls, they did so with the subtlety of true performers, without coming across arrogant or cheesy. The set list was a well thought out mix of old favourites such as ‘Easy Tiger’ and ‘Give Me What I Want,’ from their first album, Smart Casual as well as ‘Young Blood’ and the UK rock chart topping ‘Matters At All’ from the newer, Dirt. All the songs came across really well live, but the tracks from the new album particularly so, with perfect choruses for an energized live audience. It’s no wonder that in the space of a few months Kids in Glass Houses has gone from supporting Lostprophets to headlining for one of the most jam packed crowds I have ever seen at the Guildhall. The band’s frontman, Aled Phillips made sure to mention this, but I would too in his position. Phillips himself is what sets the band apart from any other generic pop-punk group, maintaining the vocal range that comes across on the studio albums in the flesh. His voice is a powerhouse, belting out punchy verses before raising the microphone to the crowd to fill in the chorus. Throughout ‘Give Me What I Want,’ during the encore, Phillips may as well have just walked off stage; as audience participation goes I have never quite seen anything like it.
Kids in Glass Houses aren’t perfect though, aside from Phillips, if the band members were interchanged with any good session musicians no one would really notice, and their sound won’t appeal to everyone’s taste. That said, with the sheer number of bands out there that fill the pop-punk genre, Kids in Glass Houses is one of the refreshing few who stand out from the watered down pseudo-rock of the rest. With a unique sound, clever lyrics, and a level of enjoyable audience participation you don’t often see at the Guildhall I would recommend them to anyone, especially those wanting to branch out and try something a bit different from what they usually listen to.
Good: Fantastic vocals and stage presence from Aled Phillips
Bad: Repetative music & creepy support band