The queue of young girls snaked around the Brighton Centre, more than a few had been there all day. Doubtless, many of those first came across 5SOS when they supported One Direction on their Take Me Home world tour. And with 1D on hiatus, they needed somebody new to love. And boy does the world love 5SOS! Coming to Brighton on the back of playing two nights at London’s 02 Arena testifies to just how successful they’ve become.
Before the gig itself, the venue’s website contained some interesting information. No overnight camping outside the premises, is a request that normally wouldn’t need to be made for even the most popular of acts. But perhaps the most revealing was the details for those who’d paid a whopping £99 for what was called the Soundcheck Package. As the name implies, not only did they get to see the gig from right at the front, but they also got to see the band soundcheck. If truth be told, not many bands could charge people to watch them check their sound balances and make sure their mics worked.
But that wasn’t all forking out an extra £45 got you. You also had the privilege of being allowed into the Brighton Centre a full two hours before everyone else and, get this, have priority access to the merchandise area (or should I say merch areas for there were more than just the one.) That fans are prepared to pay in order not to have to queue when buying their merch says a lot about 5SOS’s audience, as did most of the men’s toilets becoming ladies for the night.
When the auditorium lights finally went out it was time for the screaming to begin. It might not have reached 1D level, but it was certainly loud enough. And there onstage were Luke, Michael, Calum and Ashton, each dressed in regulation vintage band T-shirts looking like they’d just arrived for the soundcheck.
They raced through their set with one song following another in quick succession and pretty soon a formula began to reveal itself. The vast majority of them sound like something else you’ve heard before. Almost all contain a sprinkling of oft-repeated throwaway lyrics, lots of powerchord guitars and, mostly, the three at the front singing in pairs or altogether. Usually, lyrics are belted out like choruses and almost always there are some ‘oh oh ohhh, oh oh ohhh’ moments for the girls to singalong to.
The sound was impressively big, as was the drumming of Ashton, whose powerful playing really steals the show and adds a huge oomph to 5SOS’s live sound. To my ears, the music and the singing are rather ordinary think diluted Green Day without the intelligent lyrics meets McBusted without the the musical sensibilities.
Of the 20 songs they played, just a few stood out. Perhaps the most memorable of them was emo anthem Jet Black Heart and it was only the last couple, Permanent Vacation and What I Like About You, where one felt the energy surge.
The lamest moment came when guitarist Michael Clifford announced that during the tour they’ve been writing a song about the place they were playing that night. Although he claimed to have come up with a bit of masterpiece, lyrically their elegy to Brighton made their other efforts positively Shakespearian. The ‘song’ consisted of just three words, three words that they could have come up with on the way from the dressing room to the stage. The lyrics were: Brighton feels allrighton. Yes, that was it. A refrain sang first pretty slowly and then a few more times even faster. And, by now I’m sure you’ve guessed it, the audience loved it. Singing it back as if they’d just penned a classic. Indeed, if they had made it available at the merch desk, I’m sure most would’ve been snapped up!
So the question one has to ask is: what’s all the fuss about? Why have these foursome from Sydney got to where they’ve got to as quickly as they have? What’s clear is 5SOS are no boy band. They owe little to the likes of One Direction or most of those who have gone before them.
Surprisingly, given the budget they must have been able to call on, what we saw was as unremarkable as the music. There’s three big screens and loads of lights, but the screens are only used to project the band on and visually nothing exciting happens from beginning to end. That doesn’t stop the girls screaming, singing along and waving a sea of arms in unison. And, frankly, it all seems a little uncalled for.
Sometimes, phenomena are hard to explain.
Don’t get me wrong, 5SOS aren’t a bad band, they can all play and they harmonise well. But the fact is, they’re really not that special. Not in the way One Direction clearly were. And, if truth be told, they owe a huge amount to 1D , or at least to their management, for Modest, the all-powerful firm behind One Direction’s rise to global stardom, also handle 5SOS.
Without most people realising it, Modest have been working hard planning the succession ensuring that 5SOS are one of the most social-media savvy group’s around. For 1D fans, 5SOS are the logical next step from the cute packaged pop of Harry, Liam, Louis and Niall, to the more grown up, angst-ridden, yet still packaged pop punk of Green Day, or perhaps more accurately Green Day lite.
For me, they didn’t really live up to their billing. But then again, I’m not a teenage girl. I’ll leave the last word to one who was there. Her name is Bryony and she wrote on Twitter “Best concert I’ve ever been to!”
Words: Gary Marlowe
Photo: Images Out Of The Ordinary
Follow 5SOS at @5SOS