Live Review: Beartooth - O2 Academy, Birmingham
7th March 2023
Support: Motionless In White, Stray From The Path
Words & Photos: Damian John
Originally scheduled to take place back in February 2022, Beartooth have finally hit UK soil once again for the first time since the good old days before the pandemic hit back in 2020. It’s been one hell of a successful run selling out in Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester with their Brixton Academy show also being upgraded to the OVO Arena Wembley, not a bad way to end the UK leg of their tour before moving onto mainland Europe.
First up tonight are the New York hardcore punk aficionados Stray From The Path who explode straight into ‘Needful Things’ from their tenth studio album ‘Euthanasia’. Vocalist Drew York is incapable of standing still, constantly bouncing from each side of the stage, mounting the monitors while roaring down the microphone. We are introduced to ‘III’, a song about the misconduct of police officers back home and around the world with Drew stating that ‘all cops are bastards’; his energy is relentless throughout the entire performance.
Before ‘Fortune Teller’ we’re told that there were 25 crowd surfers the night before in Manchester, I think the Birmingham crowd easily outdid their Mancunian counterparts as bodies start flying over the barrier into the arms of security guards who have really got their work cut out for them. Stray From The Path lay down an impressive seven song set ultimately ending with ‘First World Problem Child’. Just twenty seconds in, vocalist Drew injures his ankle but is fortunately backed up by his bandmates Thomas Williams, Anthony Altamura and Craig Reynolds who power through the remainder of the song with Drew absolutely giving it his all despite his injury. Maybe not the ending they wanted but Stray From The Path didn’t falter and gave everything they had resulting in one of the strongest opening sets I’ve seen in a long time.
Motionless In White may look very different visually to their tour-mates in Stray From The Path and headliners Beartooth but certainly don’t lack the same energy or ferocity. With nothing but a hum ringing out into the venue, the odd flash of red light and a few melancholic chords strummed out by guitarist Ryan Sitkowski, Motionless In White make their entrance to the stage. Vocalist Chris ‘Motionless’ Cerulli takes centre stage and quickly has the Birmingham crowd all jumping to their first song of the evening ‘Thoughts & Prayers’ into ‘Cyberhex’ from 2022’s ‘Scoring the End of the World’ album.
Frontman Chris Motionless is an absolute powerhouse tonight, his vocals throughout ‘Slaughterhouse’ are flawless showcasing his ability to switch between a harsher raspier tone during the verses into cleaner, more melodic passages during the chorus. He even manages to throw a few solid ‘bleghs’ in there for good measure. ‘Another Life’ is a real highlight of their set, the mid paced banger had the entire Brummie crowd stomping and singing along before ripping and tearing into the ironically named ‘Soft’ as it’s anything but. Never shying away from a good cover, the penultimate song of their set is a surprising one, ‘breaking my back just to know your name…’, are they covering The Killers? Yes they are and I doubt The Killers material has ever sounded this good or this heavy. As ‘Somebody Told Me’ comes to an end, they finish with ‘Eternally Yours’ before handing over to our headliners for the evening; Beartooth.
Patiently waiting for Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ to finish although the crowd all seem to be loving it, the stage lights finally dim as Beartooth drummer Connor Denis makes his way to the kit followed shortly by bassist Oshie Bichar. Vocalist Caleb Shomo makes his way to the riser at the front of the stage and thrusts his fist into the air and starts jumping to the beat as they kick into ‘Below’. The crowd becomes a single entity all moving in unison to the breakdown as smoke and strobes engulf the stage. Like Stray From The Path's Drew York, Caleb can’t keep still and is often found front and centre headbanging away and jumping in circles on his riser while riling up the crowd. Quickly jumping off stage during the final notes of ‘Devastation’, Caleb returns without his shirt for the more emotional ‘Disease’, I can’t blame him at all as it was getting insanely warm in there thanks to the lively sold out crowd.
It’s been almost four years since Beartooth last played the UK and clearly they have been sorely missed, from the moment Beartooth took the stage, the crowd front to back couldn’t control their excitement exploding with joy as fan favourites ‘Riptide’ and the anthemic ‘In Between’ are performed. ‘In Between’ has to be the pinnacle of Beartooth’s set as bodies start flying over the barrier again and the venue is filled with the sound of three thousand people all singing their hearts out thus closing their set. We all know this isn’t the end though, Beartooth make their way back to the stage to perform ‘The Past Is Dead’ from 2021’s ‘Below’ before actually ending with the instrumental and suitably named ‘The Last Riff’. The Ohio quintet put on one hell of a show tonight so it’s no surprise to see they’ve been selling out venues wherever they go, definitely a band to catch the next time they come on over to the UK.