AMERICAN FOOTBALL played their first UK show since sets at Reading and Leeds Festival in 2015 to a packed out Shepherds Bush Empire. Having released their first LP in 17 years; it was inevitable that tour dates would follow.
The tale of American Football’s cult status is a bit of a strange one – in the late-nineties, Mike Kinsella, Steve Holmes and Steve Lamos put out an EP and a full length before disbanding and going separate ways. It was not until long after the 1999 album came out that American Football were recognised as one of the most important emo bands of the time. Ambient, chilling melodies are captured in the sub-hour record, which is housed (pun not intended) in a sleeve featuring 704 W High St., Urbana, IL.
It is that iconic house which fans of both; the era and the genre, associate as being the centre-point of American Football’s existence. When news of a second album was announced, many sceptics worried about the possibility of tarnishing the band’s reputation – but American Football pulled it off. It is an album where you see a clear difference and growth. Some things are constant, though.
The artwork of LP 2 features the inside of the Urbana property, and it was that image hanging behind American Football in front of 2000 fans in London. Performed in full, LP 2, sounded polished and perfected – as if anything less was to be expected from Kinsella and co.
Slick, tight riffs of the ambient variety were played to perfection by the Illinois outfit – not that anything less would be expected. Performed in order, too, it was enjoyable to hear a setlist flow the way it comes across as recorded. The harrowing Where Are We Now?, the gradually building Born To Lose and the pre-album singles Give Me The Gun and I’ve Been So Lost For So Long were all equally stunning.
But it was the second half of the show that we were all waiting for. Leaving the stage saying: “We’ll be back to play some old tunes,” it was time to revisit the old but gold discography of American Football. The most iconic and stand out hits were rattled out – most notable were Honestly?, the eight minute, heartstring tugging Stay Home and reflective anthem The Summer Ends.
When it comes to American Football, though, it is the sing along classic Never Meant that everyone wants. A bittersweet moment at the end of a beautifully orchestrated set when that iconic riff started – bitter because it meant the end, sweet because it is their signature hit. Overall it is fair to say the Illinois band nailed it and only time, preferably not another 17 years, will tell if LP 2 will be as influential and important as their debut.
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Tickets for American Football UK dates in September are available now here.