Review: Fightstar at Southampton University

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It’s an exciting time in the Fightstar camp. On Friday, the band released their first new album in six years, Behind The Devil’s Back, which reached number one in the iTunes Rock Chart. And on Sunday, the quartet made the second stop of their nine-leg UK tour – their first since 2010 – in Southampton University’s Garden Court.

Setting the tone for the evening were hard rock quartet Making Monsters, hailing from Northern Ireland. With plenty of menacing riffs, and intense, guttural screams from frontwoman Emma Gallagher, Making Monsters certainly grabbed the audience’s attention, and left a fair few stunned faces.

Next up were London trio Arcane Roots. Intricate guitar work and soulful vocals from frontman Adam Groves weaved into the band’s riotous brand of crushing heaviness. The overall effect was mesmerising, particularly on cinematic new track ‘Slow Dance’.

While Fightstar’s 10 year anniversary shows at the beginning of this year and the end of last year had a better response than the band had ever expected, this tour is different. This isn’t about simply saying, ‘Hey! We’re back!’ This is the beginning of a whole new era for Fightstar. There’s more pressure, there’s more to prove. The question is: can they deliver?

The answer is yes. Yes they can.

From an epic introduction in the form of Grand Unification’s ‘Sleep Well Tonight’, Fightstar swept straight into blistering new track ‘Sharp Tongue’, leaving nothing behind. The five-and-a-half year hiatus has by no means compromised Fightstar – the beast has come back stronger, bigger, and with much more to scream about.

Throughout their set, Fightstar transitioned between older and newer material with the refined, sophisticated skill of a well-seasoned band, but at the same time never losing any vigor or intensity. Fan favourites ‘Paint Your Target’ and ‘Grand Unification Part 1’, for instance, are as powerful and as spine-tingling as ever, particularly when everyone in the room sang so loudly that Fightstar left the choruses entirely for the crowd.

Heavier numbers ‘Behind The Devil’s Back’ and ‘Sink With The Snakes’ saw vocalist Charlie Simpson’s brother Will Simpson take over guitar duties, allowing the Fightstar frontman to take full command of the stage. The former track sounded wonderfully monstrous and threatening, while the latter was a short, explosive power burst that saw circle pits galore. The biggest circle pit of the night, however, had to be awarded to the colossal ‘Deathcar’, which reached a new, towering level of aggression, sending an absolutely sweltering Garden Court into total chaos.

After much chanting from the audience, Fightstar returned to play a beautifully stripped-back version of ‘Wake Up’, a track they’d never played live before this tour. ‘Mono’ provided a stunning, soaring end to the night, and showcased a band who still have so much more left to give.

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Final year English Literature student. Often found making lots of noise behind a drum kit. Also a writer of album & live reviews, features and news articles.

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