AWOLNATION at O2 Shepherd’s Bush

AWOLNATION’s momentous debut album launched them from nowhere to international stardom. With epics like ‘Sail’ and ‘Kill Your Heroes’, the lengthy ‘Megalithic Symphony’ felt like a slightly premature magnum opus. The challenge of course for these Californians is to follow such a beast with strong new offerings.

AWOLNATION feel not so much like a band, but a soloist with his musicians – there’s no doubting that Aaron Bruno’s the star. His words are softly spoken but they soon give way to genuine power. Somewhere between dancing like a slightly puzzled robot and skipping like a school girl, he threw the musicians’ textbook of dance out the window and launched into a strong set. Their brand is born of the Jared Leto School of angst and anger, always tempered by hope and resolution, as in the excellent ‘Jump On My Shoulders’. This is more than teenage angst though and their political agenda is never lost – this is considered frustration at a nation absent without leave. As Bruno calls it, this is “chaos with a smile.” And hey, if you will be angry, you might as well be dancing at the end.

‘All I Need’ was a touching change of mood. As all good slower songs should do, it provided a pertinent highlight. Bruno’s charm is not only in his nerdish dancing, but also in his interactions, funny and never wasted. But what of their new offerings?

According to Bruno, new song ‘Kooks Everywhere’ has just one aim: to make the dance floor explode. But somewhere in amongst heavy, dark beats, there’s more of the monstrous melodic waves which made Megalithic Symphony such a hit. The future looks bright, if you liked ‘Sail’. Speaking of which, it was brave not to end with this biggest of tracks, but to not do so spoke of an addictive Californian confidence. Instead, ‘Burn It Down’ was a thrashing, fiery finale.

Only time will tell if AWOLNATION can achieve the longevity their talent deserves, but a handful of genuinely pleasing hits on a debut album is one hell of a way to start.

Author: Tim Higgins

CFO/Music Correspondent Tim spends every moment he possibly can going to gigs and loves finding small venues with a great atmosphere.