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Sunday, 18 November 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Bullet For My Valentine (Live Review By Alex)

Bullet for My Valentine, Of Mice And Men, Nothing More, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

Every time Bullet for My Valentine play in Cardiff, the show is dutifully promoted as a homecoming for the Welsh metalcore act. Certainly bearing the hallmarks of a big event, the concert brings renowned bands Nothing More and Of Mice And Men to support, as well as a dazzling light show for the main act. All this combines for an excitable atmosphere, which while largely shown for the headliners, is seen into existence by the entire experience.

Shvpes are the first band on the billing, and while the queues, unfortunately, mean that I only get to see the final few minutes of their set, the frenetic combination of hip-hop and metal certainly seems to make for an excitable start, grabbing the attention of concertgoers as they stream into the arena

A dramatic monologue on the futility of trying to change the mind of a man who believes the earth is flat plays out as Nothing More (8) take the stage before the intros cease and they spring into a myriad of songs from their new album, The Stories We Tell Ourselves. The hooks and energy are towering, as is the infectious stage presence of exuberant frontman, Johnny Hawkins. On that point, we do get a sombre moment, as upon a playthrough of Jenny - a deeply personal song about Hawkins' sister - our frontman noticeably channels all his emotions his the performance. Although there seem to be a few mixing issues throughout the set, every member is clearly demonstrating their talent, and the sound problems don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of those who were thrilled to see them, added to the lineup.

Of Mice and Men (7) have never been favourites of mine, yet afford a lot of respect for forging ahead regardless of several changes in personnel, and releasing an going into 2018 with an album attempting to reinvent their style of ferocious alt-metal. In fact, the setlist is largely made up of material from Defy, the huge choruses allowing for fist-in-air singalongs, and inspiring the first mosh pits of the night. On commanding the room, these do not score quite as well, yet they are quite clearly enjoying themselves, a lot of laughing and joking going a long way to winning our affection - even upon an awkward moment, where David Arteaga breaks his bass drum. Not every song here resonates with me on a personal level, and the band clearly had a hard task in being placed between an upcoming act renowned for their theatrics and Wales’ favourite alt-metallers. Despite that, Manasala and co. played with heart, showing why they are admired by so many and proving a worthy main-support for our headliners.

A white curtain falls on an impressive display, with three frames of light, reaching from front to back of the rostered stage, in a sort of hypnotic illusion. Immediately, Bullet For My Valentine (10) charge into Leap Of Faith and Over It, while CO2 jets throw out streams of dense cloud, and the suitably warmed up crowd begins to bounce. While I initially feared the addition of cuts from their new album, Gravity, they bear a lot more impression live, with every word to Not Dead Yet or Piece Of Me, belted back at the equally thrilled musicians. Of course, BFMV represent most of their albums tonight, with Your Betrayal, The Last Fight and You Want A Battle (Here’s A War) eliciting ginormous cheers for their presence and leading to the biggest circle pits of the entire night. Matt Tuck makes clear his love for playing in the city as well, declaring "This is our favourite place to play in the entire world, we came here to see our favourite bands as kids and It’s so awesome being on this side of the barrier."

Reminding Welsh fans that despite worldwide acclaim, they have not lost touch with their beginnings. As the encore ensues with Waking The Demon and Tears Don’t Fall, confetti pours from the rafters, again proving in keeping with the theme of a homecoming celebration, even if this may have been an aspect to every show on the tour. To those who have seen Bullet before, the vigour and excitement of tonight’s performance probably seems no surprise. To those like me, who have not seen them before, tonight couldn’t have been a better first time.

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