Brixton pulls on its Saturday best for an incredible line-up of heavies in a fittingly grandiose setting – the sun’s up, which can only mean Parkway Drive are in town.
Warming up the Brixton Academy comes second nature to Orange County’s Stick to Your Guns (9) for their second visit in 6 months. From the second their Hall & Oates entrance tape cuts to contagious opener ‘Against Them All’, it’s clear the venue is in for a night of face-smashing joy. Before long, a neat circle pit emerges for ‘Empty Heads’ and chaos ensues for ‘What Choice Did You Give Us?’ thanks to frontman Jesse Barnett’s call to action because “security are looking really fucking bored up here.” The rousing ‘We Still Believe’ and closer ‘Amber’ alway raise the roof, however, the lack of fan favourite ‘Diamond’ isn’t lost on tonight’s attendees. Between songs, last surviving original member Jesse takes this golden opportunity to declare that despite our scene’s welcoming attitude to free speech, “there’s no room for” sexism, racism and hatred. There’s a reason to get up in the morning, however, and that reason is Stick to Your Guns.
Comeback kids Asking Alexandria (8) take to the stage for a rapturous welcome as the crowd chants “welcome back” to a Danny Worsnop that looks to have settled comfortably into his throne. Understandably skirting around content from ‘The Black’, tonight’s setlist latches on four songs in as ‘Run Free’ powers its way through the dense crowd that didn’t react greatly to four opening tracks from ‘Reckless and Relentless’. Asking this band to loop ‘From Death to Destiny’ exclusively is like asking Bring Me to perform Sempiternal back to back – it just ain’t happening. Having trained his vocals with side projects and his solo venture, Danny’s chops are much more flexible these days, which brings a welcome versatility to the rock mix of ‘The Death of Me’. The Worsnop and Bruce bromance train also appears to be fully back on track as the two rejoin on the stage. Sound issues threaten to spoil the lighter-waving ballad ‘Moving On’ and heartfelt ‘The Road’ but normal service resumes just in time for closer ‘The Final Episode’. Five thousand metalheads belting that infamous line can only be described with the same words – “Oh. My. God.” With the amount of Asking shirts in the venue, it’s likely half of the present number are here solely to see their screaming heroes return, and it’s safe to say those faces left beaming.
As if it weren’t already hot enough in the Academy, headliners Parkway Drive (9) light up the crowd from the moment welcome track ‘Wild Eyes’ booms its familiar roar. Rousing anthems are the Byron bay boys’ thing and tonight’s setlist is nothing short of astounding – ‘Carrion’ turns a decade old but still feels as devastatingly relevant as ever while ‘Karma’ pulls no punches as always. In thanking the crowds for their electric response, frontman Winston McCall brings the night back to reality with a stark reminder that the tickets bought tonight put food on their family’s tables – if there was ever a reason to support your favourite bands as much as possible, it’s that.
While soaking in the atmosphere, the crowd are swiftly reminded of the venue’s strong production capabilities which Parkway have gratefully used to full effect – greeting everyone in the Academy with a generous pyro display enough to leave two fire engines outside the venue. A rare outing for ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ beside the ever familiar ‘Idols and Anchors’ forges a pretty unforgettable setlist for the night. Even a phenomenal cover of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Bulls on Parade’ shows just how much fun this band are having on their headline tour – there’s not a moment between songs where each of the five maestros aren’t internally grinning to themselves. With that, drummer Ben Gordon leaves gravity above him as he uses his rotating drum stand to full effect for a crushing yet playful solo.
With an utterly shattering encore of ‘Crushed’ and ‘Bottom Feeder’, the packed out venue pour out onto the streets of Brixton with ringing ears but a reinforced knowledge that Parkway Drive are at their pinnacle right now – but they certainly won’t stop there.