"That was a real game of two halves there." A common football cliche which, whilst sounding ridiculously simplistic, is used to describe a game in which the first and second half were so different it felt like you could have been watching two completely separate games. Well at tonight's Helmet show at Islington Academy we witnessed the gig equivalent.
Helmet's latest record hasn't been all that well received from fans and media alike. The band quite dramatically changed up their sound to far calmer territory, lacking any kind of bite and ruggedness you would have associated with them throughout their career. With that said, the new tracks tonight fell incredibly flat and managed to wipe out any level of excitement the crowd had when hearing some of the older, better, material. Obviously with this being a tour in support of that record it was safe to expect that a large chunk of the set would include tracks from it, but even the band must've felt it when the atmosphere in the room sunk harder than a lead balloon.
As noted though, this very much was a gig of two halves, on the other side of it all when they blasted through tracks from Betty like opening duo Beautiful Love and Speechless or the likes of Unsung and In The Meantime towards the end of the show the place went mad. It proved to be a bizarre, and kind of unsettling, dynamic - whilst that can tend to be a positive in live shows, this was being done completely unintentionally.
One thing is for sure, as a group Helmet is very much the Page Hamilton show now. Being the only original member left in the band he feels like the elder statesman on stage, directing traffic nicely amongst the rest of the group. As a band they do sound very tight, not missing a beat whether they were playing through old or new material, but there was something just missing in their performance.
Overall then, Helmet turned up the heat at times during their performance at Islington Academy tonight, but it did feel like watching a band just going through the motions for the most part.