Life of Agony – Birmingham O2 Institute, 22/09/17 (Live Review)

Life of Agony Header

Returning to the UK for a full tour, Life of Agony are a band worth taking the time to catch live if you can. Although there were two support bands, the early opening time means I arrive just in time to catch the headliners themselves.

Life of Agony

This is my first time in this particular venue, and I’m surprised by how small it is for a band of Life of Agony’s stature. As well as the size of the venue, also surprising is how relatively small the audience is too. Of course, once the band take to the stage none of this matters. It is, in fact, preferable in some ways, as it makes for a more intimate setting

A triumvirate of River Runs Red classics get the night off to a storming start, including Method of Groove, a firm favourite of mine. Unfortunately, however, it soon becomes apparent that the sound mix is not the best; muddy guitars, too-loud drums, and too-quiet vocals are frequent distractions. It’s inconsistent though, with some parts of the set becoming more balanced than others, oddly.

Life of Agony Live 1

When you can hear Mina, Life of Agony’s diminutive singer, her voice sounds fantastic, better than ever in some ways. Even those pesky sound gremlins can only hold her back so much. Between songs she displays a seductive charisma and demonstrates a wit that’s sometime subtle and sometimes quite scathing. Near the end of the set an extended storytelling and crowd interaction section is very amusing, and it seems as if she is only just getting warmed up as the show is coming to a close.

After the initial barrage of tracks from River Runs Red they move on to Love to Let You Down off Broken Valley, the song of theirs that I know the least. Either for this reason or because of the aforementioned gremlins, their sound seems muddier than ever at this point.

Lost at 22 sounds clearer, however, and goes down a storm, followed up by Weeds, which gets the crowd moving and singing. Despite the less than ideal sound quality, the band continue to unleash a best of set that shows just how strong their material is, if you didn’t already know.

Other Side of the River is one I particularly enjoy, even though Mina’s voice periodically drops out of the mix. Things clear up slightly for Bad Seed, with the slower middle section sounding particularly resplendent and affecting.

Life of Agony Live 2

Their new material off latest release A Place Where There’s No More Pain slots in very well with their older songs. Dead Speak Kindly is the first new one that gets an outing, its Alice in Chains-esque vibe filling the venue with an intoxicating lazy heaviness. The crowd react less to this one, but I think it’s more that we’re all held in a hypnotised trance than anything else. When the song naturally becomes more animated, so do the people. World Gone Mad is another prime cut given a decent airing too. Top stuff.

And then along comes Through and Through and Underground. For these last two songs, the stars seem to align and the gremlins are taken out back and summarily executed. Finally, the full force of Life of Agony is unleashed. The temperature and the pit both heat up considerably. Fantastic.

This was a great show held back by a largely inconsistent sound. Despite this, however, the band show how consistently top quality their material is, and how much variety their music has to offer. By the end of it, people leave happy and seem very pleased. Just like me.

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