Of Mice & Men are one of those metal bands that are capable of inducing the sort of devotion in their fans that’s more commonly found in One Direction or Justin Bieber’s disciples. And that dedication was well in evidence on the Southampton date of a European tour, sold out weeks before it even started, with some hardy fans beginning to wait outside the Mo’Club at one o clock in the morning for a chance to catch the merest glimpse of their heroes. Supporting Of Mice & Men on the tour are Beartooth and Issues, who are both possessed of similarly rabid, if slightly smaller fanbases. Add all that together and you’ve got a recipe for a truly bonkers evening, with expectations on the performers riding at an all-time high.
Openers Beartooth didn’t quite manage to rise to those stratospheric expectations, despite coming onstage to see an already packed venue waiting for them, as opposed to the few disinterested punters standing by the bar that most opening acts usually have to contend with. They have a really heavy sound, closer to hardcore than anything else, and they weren’t exactly a perfect fit on the bill. They’re good at what they do, producing something that’s both emotionally and musically heavy, music that’s more about emotional catharsis than it is perfectly polished performance, but they didn’t really connect with the majority of the audience in the same way that the night’s other bands did.
Next up were Issues, who prove to be a rather more popular choice in the packed venue. Their catchy and polished hybrid of metalcore and sugar sweet Rn’B influences proved an immediate hit with the audience, with the tracks from their latest self-titled album fitting nicely into their set next to older party-starting cuts such as ‘Princeton Ave’ and ‘King Of Amarillo’ and rabble rousing set closer ‘Hooligans’. Sometimes Issues’ instrumentals could be a little generic, but the band had an engaging pair of frontmen in the angelic voiced Tyler Carter, and the charismatic Michael Bohn which meant they were still thoroughly entertaining to watch.
However, Issues and Beartooth could only ever be appetisers for the main even tonight, and it was clear exactly who the majority of the audience were there to see. The first bars of Of Mice & Men’s opening song ‘Public Service Announcement’ were almost drowned out by the ecstatic screams of the crowd. It didn’t even seem to faze the band though, they were obviously total pros at handling a fanatical crowd. Their short set contained quite a few tracks from their brilliant new album ‘Restoring Force’, all of which sounded even more massive and stadium worthy when performed live. Particular highlights were the slightly more melodic tracks such as ‘Another You’ and ‘Would You Still Be There’, which allowed bassist and clean vocalist Aaron Pauley to show off his vocal prowess and brought a good change of pace to a show which would have otherwise been incredibly heavy all the way through. That’s not to say OM&M couldn’t bring a suitable level of brutality when required, unclean vocalist Austin Carlisle had the charisma of a demented circus ringmaster, coaxing the crowd to ever greater levels of hysteria and jumping all over the stage like a tall, tattooed kangaroo. By the time the band finished the show with their second encore, huge anthemic single ‘You’re Not Alone’, every sweaty face in the audience was grinning wildly, and the band hadn’t just met expectations, they’d jumped all over them and stomped them to pieces.