London WC2 Astoria
Screams! Feedback! Riffs the size of basketball players from hell. Symposium chuggeriff into the pre-sweat-drenched Astoria with their new Yankeefied rawk accoutrements present and correct. From the opening honey-bomb bludgeoning of ‘Easily Scared’ it’s clear that their spell of touring over the pond has pumped up both sonics and confidence.
The five-man revisionary Flying V assault of the first 30 minutes is, like, awesome dude. Ross bounds about the stage in hip-hop Damon Albarn spasms, Hagop shakes like a mop in a cyclone, Will does his spinning top impersonation and Wotjek pulls half-a-dozen attention-grabbing stunts ranging from the drop-dead collapse to the attempted concussion collision. At strobe-light pace they cruise through half of the new ‘proper’ debut album ‘On The Outside”s posh-mosh metal, turning the first ten rows into guacamole and leaving the guy on the mixing desk with his shirt off and fingers scalded. Totally unravaged by Time-the-wrinkly-tattooist they pull off a deeply plausible impersonation of rawk with its saggy bits removed.
In evolutionary terms, Symposium are the perfectly adapted inheritors of a ramalama guitar heritage which goes Ramones-The- Stupids-Megadeth-Nirvana-Pumpkins-Ash. They are mega-Ash. Weird then, that the sense of something missing first activated by the twee angst sentiments of ‘The Answer To Why I Hate You’ (rage against Dad hogging the TV buttons) gets stronger the longer the melodic cauldron bubbles and the more the moshers tumble over the security barriers. Blur gone full metal Slayer racket is undoubtedly a cool idea, but when Ross sings, “It’s so confusing I know…” in the storm-cloud surfing ‘Blue’ and the guitars pummel away sadly, the nature of the melancholy is inescapably playground.
It is angst wearing pink bunny ears. And it sets up a credence gulf for the band. The epic track from the album ‘The End’ is staggering in its live version. The Symps move from Neil Young-ish guitar play to Sepultura grinding to Mogwai-style chord suspension all within one song. The crowd’s melting, the roof’s crumbling, but Ross is singing about sleeping willows and love tiffs. It’s unusual to yearn for a taste of dungeons and dragons, but within the Symps’ killer chords there’s definitely room for something slightly scary, a touch of Brazilian metal, and a bit less Celine Dion. The Deftones may be indecipherable but at least you know it’s bad shit he’s on about.
Like Teletubbies at the controls of Stealth bombers, Ross and mates zoom to a multi-encored, Clash-riffed finale, complete with glitter-bomb explosion and a go-cart pile-up rendering of The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. As the exuberance meters shatter, the loon youth contingent storm the security, invade the stage and proceed to wreak good-natured havoc. A riot has never looked like so much fun, and Symposium are fun too. Good fun, but a little too clean.