If one thing was made clear from this gig, it’s that headlining Scala in London was a special moment for everyone in Rolo Tomassi. As the band’s biggest lead performance to date, they used this golden chance to deliver a set that was both emotionally stirring & delightfully high-octane in equal measure, and after roughly 60 mins of vigorous performing, they managed to perfectly explain what makes them one of the most ambitious, artful & biting bands in math-core working today.
They held back zero punches as soon as the set began, opening with the thunderous & violent third track from their most recent record, Rituals. The band has stated that they enjoy opening with this song as it’s the most attention-demanding and dark track in their arsenal, and that was made immediately clear. Their unconventional lighting set up alternating between mostly red & purple did well to emphasise the bleak and destructive horror this song so boldly throws at you, kicking things into overdrive instantly.
All grounds were covered during the set, they managed to successfully balance aggressive cuts like Balancing The Dark side to side with more dramatic and awe-inspiring songs like Opalescent and Contretemps, whilst making sure the melodic sweetness of songs like Aftermath didn’t lose their impact in the process, and Eva Spence’s magnetic lead performance held it all together. As these songs played she danced around the stage in a complete trance, no clear pattern to her movements, displaying a natural harmony between herself and the music, which only made the set feel all the more raw & alluring.
The most throttling moments of the show were when male vocalist James Spence decided to come forward and take centre stage. The chemistry between everyone in the band was completely tangible from beginning to end but to see James break out of it and deliver his maniacal screams directly to the audience made for some unbridled chaos in the crowd, most notably the point where he stage dived during Alma Mater, only heightening the connection between audience and performer.
The patient & ominous build at the start of Contretemps was performed to full effect, the tension was inescapable as soon as the nimble drums came in and eventually transitioned into the incredibly panicked & distraught opening verse. The keys throughout the whole set sounded gentle & inviting too, which alongside the havoc that you can usually expect from a Rolo Tomassi track was a comforting embrace and only further accentuated the beauty of their more melodic tracks.
This was especially evident during their performance of the incredibly evocative crescendo that occurs midway through The Hollow Hour. It was startling and engaging front to back resulting in a wonderfully opulent climax. There was a charming moment where it was evident that a wrong key was pressed, and the ‘oh s**t’ from James that then followed had everyone giggling.
The touching interval speeches from both Eva & James expressing gratitude for being able to perform here and acknowledging the band members’ family in the crowd brought everything home as they managed to weave in these moments of poignant humbleness seamlessly with the often abrasive song transitions. The fractured, elongated guitar feedback screech that played as they walked off stage left everyone feeling as if they had just witnessed something personal, stirring & dazzling, and they’re absolutely right. – Camden Vale-Smith (@staplebuffalo)