I always assume POP EVIL are more familiar than they currently are. Their music has everything a rock fan wants and surely has widespread appeal. I suspect, with more exposure, a significant growth in support can’t be too far away. However, there is an upside; the ability to attend their gig at the best medium-sized rock venue in Manchester, Rebellion. The European tour, follows last year’s release of their self-titled fourth studio album, with its lead single “Waking Lions.”
As the band entered the stage, there was clearly much anticipation from the crowd. I suspect there aren’t many mediocre POP EVIL fans. They blasted out some of their high energy hits and incorporated covers of Drowning Pool’s, “Bodies”, and Survivor’s, “Eye of the Tiger” into the set which were very well received. There was also great use of backing tracks, both during songs and between songs, which allowed for smooth guitar changeovers. To really get the crowd singing they played “Torn to Pieces”, however, there was only room in the set for one ballad, meaning a personal favourite, “Monster You Made,” missed out. The other notable performances were tracks “Waking Lions” and “Be Legendary” off the latest album.
Forgive me for donning my “sound engineer hat” for a moment; it can’t be helped. The band went for a speakerless stage, which may not look as cool as big stacks everywhere, but gave the band more space to move about and, more importantly, gave more control to the sound engineer who, in turn, provided a fantastic mix. Most of the extra space was utilised by bassist Matt DiRito, who’s energy and inherent showmanship was a delight to behold. As was the powerful performance from drummer Hayley Cramer. The guitarists could not have more contrasting stage presence. One reserved, understated and methodical, the other bold and flamboyant, which, as it turns out, is a good combination.
The band made a couple of brave decisions, which may have gone badly. Prior to the encore, singer Leigh Kakaty came out and did a Q&A session with the crowd. It was an interesting decision relying on the quality of the unprepared questions and something I hadn’t encountered mid-gig before. The majority of questions related to destinations of future tours, however, there was a nice touch when Leigh along with the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to an audience member.
Leigh had been struggling through illness on the tour and, as a result, his on-stage tipple of choice was tea; hardly rock n roll, but needs must. His vocals may have been a little tentative at times, which is understandable, but generally his performance was still very strong. The decision to sing a song acapella, though, was particularly brave, especially considering being so late in the set. With the crowd’s assistance he powered through brilliantly before being joined once more by his bandmates for the final numbers. For final song, “Trenches”, POP EVIL were joined on stage by THE FALLEN STATE singer Ben Stenning, which was a nice touch, with, I suspect, the added bonus of resting Leigh’s voice a little.
I must also give a shout out to the often unnoticed crew. Whether is was plying tea or changing over guitars they were kept very busy and the merch seller was particularly pleasant.
Though I loved the intimacy of the smaller venue, as you so rarely get to experience such high quality music in a venue that size, I do hope next time I encounter POP EVIL, it will be at a much larger venue. Their music and performance deserve a much larger appreciation.
The Fallen State
Expectations were also high as support was provided by THE FALLEN STATE, a band with a number of impressive support slots on their CV, including the likes of Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm and Tremonti. I also had the pleasure of interviewing them before the gig. There was no hint of arrogance, just positivity, ambition and genuine camaraderie. This tour was the precursor to the release of their first full-length album and the following headline tour, but, despite this, there was no complacency. Putting on a great show and getting the crowd engaged were the top priorities.
As you may expect on a Wednesday evening, initially there was a lack of dynamism from the crowd, but the engagement from singer Ben Stenning, supported by some high energy rock n roll, soon got the place buzzing. The band were very tight and confidently delivered their opening few numbers; nicely composed hard rock songs with an emphasis solid riffs, driving rhythms, strong vocals and technical solos. The backing vocals provided by Rich Walker on the drums and the technical passages provided by lead guitarist Jon Price, though often overlooked, were particularly appreciated.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect, though, was the impression they clearly had on people on previous tours. Despite not being the headline band, the crowd’s knowledge and participation in the songs, particularly “Nova,” was impressive, proving once again they are far from a side show.
I suppose the big question is whether THE FALLEN STATE are ready to step up from established support band, to true headliners. There’s no doubt they are technically capable, or that their current discography is strong, however, it may well depend on the quality of the upcoming album “A Deadset Endeavour” and the reception to the headline tour later in the year. That all said, things are looking promising, that is for sure.