Concert Reviews

Concert Review: The Blackout – O2 Academy Birmingham

O2 Academy Birmingham – 23rd February 2024

The Blackout – O2 Academy Birmingham – 23rd February 2024

Review by Kristal Barker | Photos by Jack Barker

I’ll start this review with a small confession, when tonight’s headline band The Blackout decided to call in a day back in 2015, hiring their local leisure centre for one last final farewell I had no idea who they were. That all changed when I met my now husband as he was a huge fan throughout their career and still regularly listens to the band.

Fast forward to 2023 when The Blackout announced that they were reforming for an appearance at the 20th edition of Download Festival and then a five-date tour in 2024 which I knew I had to see if they still lived up to the hype nine years later. Being unable to make it to Download Festival last year, we now find ourselves making the two-and-a-half-hour journey to Birmingham’s O2 Academy for the aptly named “Wasn’t it, Was it?” tour. It seems that The Blackout fans aren’t a fan of queuing as we arrived at the venue roughly 10 minutes prior to doors open with only a short queue of people waiting, not that I blame them on a cold February evening but it might also have something to do with the fact “We’re all old” – quoted many of times through the night by (un)clean vocalist Sean Smith.

Each night of the tour started with a band from the local area. First up tonight was semi-local band, Lunars. Lead Vocalist and guitar/ bassist Connor Ball (who is also known for being the bass player in The Vamps) was from “About 30 seconds up the road” and drummer Sasa Macek (from the band Cheat Codes) all the way from Croatia. The power of the internet brought these two together and although their set was delayed due to some technical difficulties, they had great chemistry together on the stage.

Ball tried to get the crowd involved a few times throughout the set, however the room felt a bit sleepy, especially considering it was a Friday night. Their latest single ‘No Way In Hell’, for which the music video released 3 days ago, along with one of their oldest songs ‘Back For More’ saw equal appreciation from the crowd. With the enthusiastic reactions from a section of the crowd, it was obvious that there was a group of fans in the middle of the room. With the slightly delayed start it did feel like their set had to be cut short however they squeezed all their energy into the performance. The duos first LP is due to be released this year and it’s going to be worth a listen!

Next up were Dead Pony from Glasgow and lead singer Anna Shields began with a passionate performance which would continue throughout their entire set, dancing her way through the evening and enjoying their moment on stage. Although this is my first introduction to Dead Pony, I found myself singing along to some of their catchy choruses, like in ’23, Never Me’ and ‘MK Nothing’.

Shields and the rest of the band didn’t spend much time interacting with the crowd, instead opting to cram as many songs into their set as possible, however they made time to thank The Blackout for bringing them along on their tour. With the somewhat lacking energy in the crowd (which was picked up on by Sean Smith from The Blackout who was watching from the rear of the balcony and addressed later on in the night stating “They’re a f*cking class and will be massive soon”), I don’t think many people had heard of Dead Pony before. I hope this changes with the release of their upcoming album as they have great confidence and stage presence while also sounding fantastic this evening. Their new single ‘Rainbows’ is out on the 29th February, so definitely go take a listen!

As soon as the house light came back on, the crowd started the excited shuffle to get close to the stage for the main event, The Blackout. After a long 9-year hiatus, the Welsh band graced the stage again with all the confidence and ability of a group who had never left the industry. With the band immediately bouncing around the stage and Smith preforming his signature stage trick of swinging the microphone around his neck it was clear the band meant business. The only potential issue holding back vocalist Gavin Butler was having what appeared to be a broken foot, however that didn’t stop him from rocking out throughout the night. Only once taking a seat midway through the set when the slightly slower track ‘Life & Death In Space’ gave him a quick chance to do so.  

After a crowd sing along to a bit of My Chemical Romance, Blink 182 and A Day to remember, the band opened with ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ off what they call their best album The Best In Town to get the crowd moving. The album being released 14 years ago definitely ticked the nostalgia box and took the room back to a time when the track would have been played on the likes of Kerrang and Scuzz TV. ‘Children of the Night’ was obviously a favourite with the crowd, which Smith dedicated to “Anyone who’s been called a goth, mosher or any other smelly goth names” which was probably relevant for the majority of the room at some point in their lives.

There was a mystery special guest (and I’m sorry if I should know who this was!) who joined the band on stage for Hyro Da Hero’s part of ‘Higher and Higher’ during which Smith dived on the back of this mystery person. With a medical emergency that was dealt with swiftly by the security team, Smith being the comedian he is, ran to the other side of the stage to cause a distraction. The band’s music stopped immediately when they saw there was an issue which led to them explaining that they don’t use backing tracks. They then further proved the point when they started back playing exactly where they left off flawlessly.

The amount of crowd surfers throughout the night either showed that we’re either not all as old as Smith said or that their music is still relevant with a younger fan base even after the extended hiatus.

Having completely ignored their last album Start The Party from 2013, which the band joke was the reason for their departure from the music scene after disappointing sales, most of the setlist was formed from The Best In Town and Hope. Hope was the band’s first album release after they were dropped from their original record label that was funded via PledgeMusic, which just goes to show you the power of the internet. The look of joy on the bands faces throughout the set proved that The Blackout has well and truly missed being on the stage since their last tour and that perhaps the time is right to make a full comeback. Smith mentioned that apart from Slam Dunk Festival in June, the band don’t have anything else lined up as it currently stands. Whatever the future hold for the band, it is clear that they still have a sizeable fanbase and that even if we don’t get any further updates from the band, as tonight’s opening song states, “We’ll still be begging for more”.

The band chose to finish the evening with one last chance to for a little crowd participation, during ‘Save Our Selves (The Warning)’ Smith and Butler instructed everyone to get down on the floor ready to jump back up with the music kicked back in. It was great to see so many getting involved especially considering the jokes about our ages earlier in the evening. The audience continuing to sing the closing melody of the song long after the band had finished playing which was a powerful sign of the bands legacy and Smith was clearly emotional hearing the tune continue as the band posed for a photo and left the stage.

Photos by Jack Barker


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