Bigger, bolder and with a bloody great big new podium, the nu-metallers are finally fit to conquer the world…
Despite reports of hospital wards nationwide treating life-threatening cases of Franzmania or the mass hysteria caused by Pete Doherty no-shows, these displays of fan dedication are nothing compare to what Lostprophets experience in a night’s work. As the lights go down and dry ice blankets the lavish stage set-up (featuring a huge central podium), six silhouettes in rock-hero poses are revealed with their backs to the baying mob. After lapping up the adoration for longer than is strictly tasteful, they leap 180 degrees and guitarist Lee Gaze lays into stupidly titled opener ‘To Hell We Ride’. Front to back, seats to stalls, Manchester is in the throes of ’Prophets-mania. This is no fluke, either: this sort of reaction – normally awarded to Busted and Blue – has been a daily occurrence on this sold-out UK tour.
The Pontypridd nu-metallers have undergone quite a metamorphosis over the past couple of years. Back in 2001, the success of self-financed debut ‘The Fake Sound Of Progress’ was impressive by the mere fact it coincided with the cull of their chest-beating American nu-metal counterparts. It didn’t take long before cynicism started to seep in, though. According to their detractors, everything was a little too perfect: metallers were supposed to be baggy-shorted, long-haired grizzlies, not good-looking, (a little too) fashion-conscious hunks with highlights even the shallowest Premiership footballer would think twice about sporting.
Lostprophets’ initial response to the naysayers was to deliberately beef up their live gigs. The amps were turned to ‘ear-bleedingly loud’, the walls of brutal detuned guitar were only sparsely punctuated by moments of melody and frontman Ian Watkins would roar slightly more than was necessary. What happened next, however, probably took even the band by surprise. They disappeared to LA, recorded second album ‘Start Something’ and casually conquered America. Which brings us back to tonight. With new uniform, black stage threads and a setlist that features only two songs from their debut (the title track and ‘Shinobi Vs Dragon Ninja’) Lostprophets are a band transformed. The 11 newer songs in the set are on a serious glam tip, sounding like ’80s hair-metal goons Mötley Crüe or pansticked chumps Kiss. The ratio of pop to metal has seen a complete reversal, with smash tunes like ‘Burn Burn’ and ‘Last Train Home’ uniting razor-sharp guitars, Ian’s way with a chorus and 3,000 backing vocalists.
‘Sway’ is probably their biggest concession to pop, tightly knitting together nagging guitar hooks and breezy atmospherics that build to a powerful crescendo. It’s the sort of moment in the set that was unthinkable a few years back. That’s not to say Lostprophets have completely lost their hardcore edge. ‘We Are Godzilla, You Are Japan’ lashes out like Charlotte Church after necking one too many Breezers, while ‘Wake Me (Make A Move)’ does away with the sheen of its album version to become a hurricane of sledgehammer guitars.
The band have also effortlessly adapted to their more spacious surroundings. Ian in particular revels on the bigger stage, charging around like a dog that’s just realised it has legs. However, rather than stomping round like most rawk frontman, he glides his lithe frame around the stage in-between leaps off his shiny new podium. In other words, he’s quickly morphed into the sort of superstar frontman he always threatened to.
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And after heading over the Atlantic as six slightly-rough-around-the edges-Valleys boys, tonight Lostprophets returned as bona-fide chart-bursting pop stars with much better tunes.