Creeper returns to continue the ritual at Shepherds Bush Empire, after 6 years with their dramatic flair and fusion of punk rock with glam and that dark gothic allure. Coming from Southampton, the band includes the charismatic and striking vocalist Will Gould, guitarist Ian Miles, Sean Scott on bass, Jake Fogarty on drums and Lawrie Pattison on guitar on guitar and last, but certainly not least Hannah Greenwood adding layers with keyboards, violin, and some beautiful backing vocals. Performing fresh off the release of their critically acclaimed gothic rock opera Sanguivore in October, the show promised to be a spooky spectacle and a grand ending to the short but sweet Sacred Blasphemy Tour.
Before Creeper hit the stage things kicked off with South-Wales-based The Nightmares who set the scene early on, performing in black clothing and blood-red mood lighting. The band mainly drew from their 2023 debut album Séance including such tracks as From Above, Cursed and Murder Season. Will Gould actually featured on the album version of the latter track, so it was a little surprising that he didn’t offer his vocals for the song. Although given his flair for the theatrical entrance, perhaps it’s not that surprising he wanted to keep the audience waiting.
An emo punk rock band from New Jersey then comes in to further intensify the energy and no it’s not My Chemical Romance, it’s Save Face arriving on stage in matching orange jumpsuits. Lead vocalist Tyler Povanda declares “London, I now pronounce you dead” as the band begins to lead us through tracks from their 2022 album, Another Kill For The Highlight Reel. They really have this strong energy, delivering tracks like Sharpen Your Teeth whilst the first crowd surfers come gliding over the crowd to The Perks of Not Being Able To See Your Reflection. The band then delivers a message of “being unapologetically yourself and saying f**k you to anyone who says otherwise” and goes into A.M. Gothic
Now it’s time for Creeper, but are we about to be disappointed as over the speaker system we hear that the evening’s performance has been cancelled as it is “too blood-curdling to take place”. No thankfully, this of course is part of the show and vampire-familiar, now social media personality Darcia soon greets the crowd, informing us in her sarcastic manner that she isn’t there out of free will. She makes a quip about dealing with last-minute guest list requests, due to the late cancellation of the Green Day secret show at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. The crowd are also given a brief lesson on how to pronounce the album in true Hermione Granger fashion “It’s Sanguivore, San-gui-vore,”. Then the band enters to a gothic castle backdrop whilst bathed in red and white lights encircled by swirling dry ice.
Guitarist Ian Miles (whose delightful mum I got a chance to say hi to before the gig) took centre stage initiating the opening melody of Further Than Forever. The crowd seem instantly hooked despite this being a new track off the album as frontman Gould almost effortlessly commands the stage entrancing the audience with every word and motion.
The band pulled out some of their biggest tracks to date, though as you’d expect including many off the new album. Room 309 comes next as crowd surfing commences, followed by recent single Teenage Sacrifice, which again already feels like a fan favourite. We’re also treated to Eternity in Your Arms, and a classic for me, Black Rain and then another powerful track from the latest album, Sacred Blasphemy, drives the crowd with its insatiable riff. Then the band dives into the back catalogue with another fan favourite VCR.
Things take a shift with The Ballad of Spook and Mercy, followed by the electro-rock exuberance of Black Heaven. Afterwards, most of the band leaves the stage as Hannah Greenwood has her spotlight moment with Crickets, joined by Miles on acoustic guitar, which turns into quite a poignant moment as the crowd sing along.
Then the band returns to the stage as thunder cracks and Gould dons a blood-soaked white shirt as he dramatically feasts on a girl (played by his girlfriend) held in his arms. This precedes some songs from Sex, Death, and the Infinite Void with a personal favourite of mine Cyanide, accompanied by an equally infectious Annabelle. Soon after comes Ghost Brigade and a brief rendition of I Choose to Live, which transitions into the awesome riffage of Lovers Led Astray, and then further intensifies with Chapel Gates.
Creeper then take fans down memory lane with Down Below, from their debut album, which consistently delivers and is always an easy song to sing along with, if you often find yourself forgetting the words. The set then concludes with Hiding with the Boys and Misery the first song of theirs I ever heard. Both numbers are greeted with high-octane enthusiasm and rapture, especially the latter as the crowd takes over the vocals almost rendering the usually unflustered Guold speechless until he says “that’s never happened before”.
However, it is not the end of the night as the inevitable encore calls the band back on stage with an explosive ’80s-inspired Cry To Heaven from their latest album. It already felt like Creeper had been playing this song for years, as the crowd sang along to almost every word with its infectious beat and catchy chorus. The track is like a combination of The Sisters of Mercy and Billy Idol, with just a hint of Meat Loaf.
This absolutely immense track provides an excellent and enthralling conclusion to what was a memorable night. The band even had a little party on stage to celebrate as Darcia returned to spray the crowd with water emanating from a (don’t worry it’s fake) dismembered head. Creeper’s blend of high energy mixed with gothic theatricality alongside the charismatic stage presence of Gould is simply a joy to behold.
Photos from Creeper’s Nottingham Rock City show by Em Coulter.