InMe – Live @ O2 Academy Islington
aaamusic | On 21, May 2014
Saturday 17th May, London
Upon arriving at the O2 Academy Islington, I saw the queue barriers and pre-gig excitement finally kicked in. But then I realised that there were no more than 30 people lined up. And it was five minutes until doors. Confused and upset at the lack of people, I shuffled into the venue at 6pm – where the hell was everyone!? Leaning against the barrier at the front of the room, looking back at the crowd of people, I realised that the fanbase for InMe is slightly more mature than that of most gigs I attend. The throng of 14-year-old girls was non-existent. Bliss. My fears of an empty room were gradually quelled as 6:30 draws closer – a slow stream of people began to fill the room.
The lights dim and the music fades. Cue Oxygen Thief. Never before has a three-piece sounded so huge. This is more than likely down to the fat, bass tones, occasionally boosted further by a distortion pedal. At some point, all three members shouted down a microphone, which helped them sound bigger too. However, it is the pony-tailed vocalist/guitarist who takes point on the singing front. Displaying a wide range, he sings, shouts and screams his way through the 30 minute set, with a voice reminiscent of Frank Turner. I think it’s the accent. Formerly a solo project, Oxygen Thief treat us to several tracks from their upcoming album – their debut as a full band. A final song with some more jumping around and headbanging (hairband out, this time) and then they are gone from the stage, just as quickly as they started. Not the most entertaining set to watch, but they are definitely a tight bunch of skilled musicians.
With the room now looking busier, I pass on a journey to the bar and stay at the barrier to watch The Red Paintings soundcheck and assemble a plethora of bizarre stage props. Seriously. On top of the guitar cabinet they place a fake hamster in a cage, running for its life; several statues that I initially mistook as odd-shaped dildos (they’re actually Mark Ryden YHWH toys); an alien in a jar of liquid; and a plush heart dangling in front of the speakers. The two female members walk on stage with their bass and violin, ready to soundcheck. Dressed as Geishas, they look like ancient Japanese paintings brought to life. Finally, they set up a canvas on the left of the stage and a box on the right, both with some paints on the floor. The lights dim once more…
The violinist stands behind a piano, playing chords, the other members stand still as a girl wearing nothing but pants and a giant Geisha mask on her head is guided onto the stage and up onto the box. The leading man – also dressed in ancient Japanese clothing – starts singing in his expressive, passionate voice. Lots of emotion going into this performance. They open with their cover of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ song, ‘Mercy Seat’. During the second song, two strange figures dance out onto the stage wearing strange masks and black morph suits. One dances over to the canvas on the left of the stage, the other remains by the naked girl. They begin painting with red and black paints, both on the girl and the canvas. These three are local volunteers, expressing themselves to the music.
The remainder of the set contains impressive (but too loud in the mix) violin playing, passionate singing and some jumping around from the frontman, who claims the band come from Uranus. He also re-titles ‘The Revolution is Never Coming’ to The Revolution in Your Butthole. Toward the end of the set, the human canvas rotates 180 degrees to reveal an alien face on the reverse of the Geisha mask. A single spotlight highlights the girl, now being covered in blue and green lines, whilst the band begin to play ‘Wasps’. Other stand-out tracks are ‘The Streets Fell Into My Window’, which details the journey of Alice in Wonderland, and ‘You’re Not One Of Them’. After announcing they have seconds left, The Red Paintings finish up and exit the stage to the sound of a cheering and clapping audience, most who had probably never heard of them before.
Time for InMe. The room is full at this point, thankfully, as the intro music fades in. One by one they make their way onto the stage and to a chorus of screaming fans. Then, a familiar sound comes from the speakers – the intro to ‘Saccharine Arcadia’, a personal favourite. And what a song to open the set with! One of their heaviest, accompanied by headbanging from the three guitarists. Following this, they dive straight into ‘Myths and Photographs’, a fan-favourite, which gets a massive audience reaction. Dave McPherson and Gazz Marlow flawlessly execute the fiddly guitar leads and Dave’s vocals are pitch-perfect, despite announcing his voice is almost blown from not taking a day off on the tour. ‘Single Of The Weak’ provides us with Greg McPherson’s funky bass lines and an opportunity for crowd participation, with screams of “What’s that shit on the radio?” during the chorus.
Eventually, we get to hear one of new tracks from The Destinations EP: ‘Pelorus Jack’, the EP highlight. Despite Dave’s reservations, the song was performed just as it sounds on the EP – in fact, it’s louder and better. Next up, Dave announces they’re going to play some older material and, after some requests from the crowd, InMe launch into ‘Natural’ from their first album, Overgrown Eden, followed by ‘Firefly’ – another fan favourite from the same album – which is the best received song so far; the crowd singing louder than Dave at times. At the set’s halfway point we get to hear something from White Butterfly: ‘Safe in a Room’, which Dave dedicates to an old friend. There had been hints on Facebook, but I still wasn’t fully prepared for the epic ‘Bury Me Deep Beneath Your Skin’, which is the highlight of the show. Dave gets so into it that while jumping around he kicks over one of his pedals, which his brother Greg swiftly fixed. Technical issues resolved, they continue on, playing another new track, ‘Beached Whales’.
Two thirds of the way through the set and the audience finally get to hear some songs from The Pride, the latest album from InMe. Sadly only two tracks, but as Dave mentions, they have almost 100 songs and it’s impossible to play them all. The crowd are treated to the ethereal ‘Moonlit Seabed’ and ‘Reverie Shores’, two of the album highlights. An over-zealous fan yelling requests leads to Gazz giving us a Hand Trumpet version of the ‘Crushed Like Fruit’ chorus. Sadly, they don’t perform the full band version, but that’s softened by an outing of ‘Her Mask (PA)’ from Overgrown Eden, in which Dave’s vocals are spot on, including the falsetto and screams, despite his suffering vocal chords.
Dispensing with the traditional encore, InMe just play on for three more songs (if all bands could adopt this…that would be great). First of the three ‘encore’ tracks is ‘Legacy’, an emotional song dedicated to Lora Richardson, the woman who helped InMe at the very start. You can feel the emotion in the air and see it in Dave’s face as he sings the lyrics with intense passion. Next up, the track I suspect a lot of people have been waiting for during the past 80 or so minutes: ‘Faster The Chase’. They attempt something new and exciting in the bridge – “Grab a partner” says Dave, after parting the crowd for a Wall of Death. But there was to be no Wall of Death. Instead, Dave coaxes the partnered-up bunch into ballroom dancing. A Ballroom Dance of Death! A bizarre but entertaining scene. What could possibly follow this? They finish with ‘Chamber’, shortly after InMe say their thank you’s. Not the greatest InMe track, but everyone enjoys it, and they play it very well. A different but welcome ending to one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a long while. Dave McPherson walks from one end of the barrier to the other shaking hands as the band leave the stage.
It’s not until the lights come on that I notice they had a very bare stage setup – a stark contrast to The Red Paintings. And unlike many headlining acts, they have no scrims, no banners, no massive light show…Just four blokes and their gear. They don’t need anything else; it’s all just unnecessary clutter. Their performance is honest and tight, crafted to perfection over their many years together. One of the best live sets I’ve seen in months, maybe even years.
Words: Jake Parker
Photos: Jake Parker + Charli Osborne