Gig Review: While She Sleeps @ O2 Institute, Birmingham

words & header photo by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler), other photo by paris (@parisxria)

More now than ever, we need a sense of unity, togetherness and community, and it’s up to our elected leaders to promote these ideals. However, in the absence of elected officials, it was up to While She Sleeps to bring this sense to Birmingham’s O2 Institute on Tuesday evening, and for the entirety of their UK tour, which kicked off with a mega support slot at Architects‘ sellout show at Alexandra Palace.

It’s been an exciting old year for the Sleeps Brothers; after electing to go their own way and release music independently of a record label, their fourth album (third if you don’t count The North Stands For Nothing), You Are We, was universally praised by all that came into contact with it, peaking as high as eighth in the UK album charts. Clean production, emotionally stirring lyrics and heavy riffs were abundant. Unafraid to bite their tongues in song, You Are We felt like a rounded call to arms for the disenfranchised.

This was clear as a packed O2 Institute screamed out the opening to You Are We, as a barrage of limbs opened the first pit of the evening. This was a really good crowd. It felt like one of those adverts where there’s a gig and everyone’s really into it. The band were also into it, with bodies flying across the stage left, right and centre as Loz and Aaran got the crowd good and rowdy, with Sean & Mat laying down those heavy riffs, and of course, Adam dropping the beats. I didn’t stop to ask the names of the crowd, but considering how organised and into it we all were, I’m 90% certain they’re all hired extras. While She Sleeps will make huge losses on this tour paying extras, but play amazing gigs. Easy come, easy go I guess.

While She Sleeps gig 2
Source: Paris (@parisxria)

I should also mention that I’ve bought myself one of those stupid fitness watches, so I can confirm by the end of Civil Isolation, I’d already done 700 steps and burnt 75 calories. Seven Hills and Brainwashed doubled that tally, and though the circle pit to Brainwashed wasn’t impressive as the circle pit round the sound tower at Ally Pally, it was still a sweaty washing machine of a mosh-pit.

There really wasn’t a let up in the big riffs, or the big tunes. It’s really good to see them playing Death Toll live, as that is a big, dirty, heavy melee of a song. I stopped checking my calories burnt rigorously at this point, but I’ll tell you know, it was a lot. Two t shirts and a hoodie round your waist is NOT a good call for a modern metal gig. Again, the crowd were REALLY good here, getting stuck in with The Chapel, This is the Six and Our Courage, Our Cancer. The big singalongs were really good too, especially with Empire of Silence and Steal the Sun, proper horns up, all voices stage-wards singalongs. I felt myself getting more hyper throughout the gig, same with the crowd, and the band. We shared a common goal of having a great night out.

The theme of unity, togetherness and caring for each other reached its peak after Silence Speaks, Loz returned from wriggling about in the crowd to bring our attention to a girl that had been front and centre, and smooshed or not, she sang every word of Silence Speaks, like the dyed-in-the-wool Sleeps fan she was. So Loz pulled her on stage, thanked her, and left her on stage for the finale of Hurricane, and I’ve never seen someone so happy, excited and in disbelief in my entire life. Really, it was a beautiful gesture, especially for someone who’s been smooshed against the barrier for an hour or so, and it would be an unforgettable moment for anyone who got pulled on stage at that point.

So, eulogy time again. I love a lot of bands, and the people in those bands, but I also accept that in real life, they’re likely dickheads, or don’t really care about their fans. Sleeps seem the polar opposite; they genuinely seem like they consider every person in the halls and academies they play their friends, and you feel valued as a fan, they play their hearts out and you repay that energy back to them. So I’m thankful for their music, and I’m thankful they put their hearts and souls into two amazing gigs in less than a week. It sounds corny, but when you feel personally valued in a room full of hundreds, you bounce a bit more on your feet.

WSS are one of the most exciting bands out there at the moment, and I guarantee they’ll be putting on their own headline show at Alexandra Palace in the next album cycle… if not bigger.

Fitness Results

Calories Burnt: 754

Steps Taken: 5,554

Distance Travelled: 1.96mi

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Oliver Butler

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