The last time I saw Trail of Dead was supporting Audioslave at the Brixton Academy, which seems like absolutely years ago. They completely failed to impress me back then with their noisy and disjointed performance, rounded-up with an immature and pathetic attempt at being ‘rock and roll’ by smashing up their instruments. In the years that both band and I have had to grow up and develop, would this second viewing result in a different reaction? I’ll get to that later, but first a few words about support act Middle Class Rut. I hadn’t heard of them before tonight, and my expectations were pretty low when two cocky young guys strolled out onto the stage. So it was a pleasant surprise when Zack Lopez and Sean Stockham pretty much blew everyone away with their incredible sound. Lopez idly strummed at his guitar for a moment, before exploding into an aggro-infused riff and anthemic vocals that were perfectly accompanied by Stockham’s seemingly multi-armed antics on the drum kit. Their short set was an abundance of energy and raw songwriting that didn’t try to overcomplicate matters, and the crowd were left smiling at the impressive opening.
And so it is that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, eventually, enter the stage to screams and whoops that are more becoming of a boy band than a hard working indie/progressive outfit. The stage barely contains all six members as the speakers blast out their various album introductions, before the band themselves begin the assault with energetic performances of ‘Far Pavillions’, ‘Isis Unveiled’ and ‘It Was There That I Saw You’, which itself receives a raucous roar from a crowd jostling with high spirits.
The trouble throughout this set is that the band’s impressive ambition almost always gets the better of them. The grand opuses that sound so fantastic and dramatic on latest album ‘The Century of Self’ lose a great deal of their edge, and at some points (such as the lacklustre vocal harmonies in ‘Far Pavillions’) become nothing short of embarrassing. Instead of the organised and well-orchestrated tracks on the albums, live the band come across as rather out of step with each other, and unable to scale the great heights that their discography demands.
But throughout it all there’s one massive issue – singer, and all round attention seeker Conrad Keeley infuriates with his constantly out of key singing, egotistical posturing and sloppy performance, and it is only through the occasional performances of drummer/guitarist Jason Reece that the vocals are salvaged. The band’s self-indulgent nature is well documented and fairly obvious with a name like they have, but the conclusion to tonight’s show is awkwardly unprofessional and tedious. Keeley loitering on stage strumming away, just after an improvised jam session, tears any remaining morsels of enjoyment out of the show.
Whilst there is little in the way of instrument-smashing conclusions (well, a drum kit ends up in pieces on the floor) the band still appears to have failed to achieve the same quality they have proven they can attain on their recorded output. It’s a shame, but it seems their self-indulgent nature just swallows them up in a live environment.
Originally published at Sonic Dice.