From the moment Mineral walk out on stage at The Dome in London, everyone in the room is hanging onto their every move. Long-awaited shows like this – Mineral have been inactive since 1998 except for a reunion tour in 2014 – always feel special, even though fans of 90s emo have been gifted with quite a few of these in recent years.
Even so, it’s hard to take it for granted when you hear songs live for the first time, standing in a crowd you thought you’d never get to. So when Mineral tear into fan favourites ‘Five, Eight and Ten’ and then without pause ‘Gloria’, two tracks from their debut ‘The Power of Failing’, it’s greeted with rapture. The crowd’s singing is audible through earplugs, the pit surging as hands are thrown up in passion from the depths of it. These people can’t believe they are living this moment.
Mineral are one of those bands with a vast influence but little to show for it in their own mainstream success. The 1975’s Matty Healy has cited them as an influence on the band’s writing for their next album, and Lil Peep sampled their song ‘LoveLetterTypewriter’ on ‘Hollywood Dreaming’. Mineral ostensibly could have had a shot; they broke up in 1998, just when emo was on the cusp of a gold rush, and even themselves signed contracts with Interscope for a major label debut that never materialised. Their scenemates Jimmy Eat World, with whom they released a split seven-inch in 1997, went platinum at the turn of the millennium.
But really, Mineral weren’t meant to be huge. And that’s no comment on the quality of their music, but on its inherent intimacy. They’re the kind of band that aren’t just loved but beloved; that are kept tight to people’s chests. That could never have translated to the impersonality of radio or giant festivals. It’s what some would call a cult following, but that doesn’t quite describe it: this is truer, more sacred, than that. Religious, could be closer to the mark, or at least you could paint it that way, as vocalist Chris Simpson stands tonight bathed in blue and red light like someone captured in the stained glass of church window.
Simpson is still as he sings, hair over his face. During instrumental sections he steps back and rocks back and forth over his guitar, gently, as around him his bandmates lunge and stab. When he talks to the crowd, he’s affable and soft-spoken. He’s not a rock star, and he doesn’t need to be. It’s an exchange of something deeper than theatrics: Emo, as it was in its golden age of the 90s. It’s about connection and when people connect to bands like Mineral, it goes deep.
That’s why the crowd feels so reverential tonight, but it’s also why the crowd is as much a part of the show as the four men on stage. Not in a phony way; there are no crowd-participation tactics or anything designed to stir the room up inorganically. But when the crowd reacts with such joy to every turn of the set – the big moments crashing in during ‘February’ and ‘Palisade’, the down-tempo communion of ‘SoundsLikeSunday’ and ‘LoveLetterTypewriter’, even the brave addition of the two new songs released with the announcement of this tour – it feeds the band just as much as the reverse is true. As Simpson wails the closing lines of their final song ‘Parking Lot’ and the band walk off to feedback screech, there’s a feeling that everyone here, band and fan alike, has just been a part of something holy.
It’s clear that tonight, though a celebration of the band’s 25th anniversary, isn’t about nostalgia. Not for Mineral, who play with the spirit of a band that really want to be there, the songs as tight and Simpson’s vocals as full of emotion as ever. And not for the crowd either, since it’s fair to say that the majority of it – myself included – were either children or not yet existent for Mineral’s first time as a band. What this is really a celebration of is Mineral’s enduring ability to connect. To play songs that feel like they mean everything, and for that to just maybe be true for a brief few minutes at a time. So few bands get to create that experience – it’s no wonder Mineral came back.
Words: Mia Hughes