2014 will go down for H.E.A.T. as the year when the young Swedes made their most significant breakthrough yet since exploding onto the scene with their debut album in 2008.
For proof, look no further than GRTR! writers voting the ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ release their top album of 2014, or the way that a fans poll had them as the stand out act of the final Firefest.
A second tour of the UK this year was therefore a well deserved showcase and they played their biggest London venue yet, even though the Academy was not as full as I thought it might be, at this most busy time of the year for gigs and not to mention Christmas festivities and the pressure on people’s hard-earned cash.
The gig reminded both existing fans and curious newcomers of H.E.A.T’s two greatest qualities – strong songs with memorable hooks and an exuberant stage performance, notably from hyperactive singer Erik Gronwall and shape-throwing guitarist Eric Rivers.
I did notice though that on this occasion Erik was slightly less manic than before, ‘only’ diving into the front of the crowd rather than the previous times this year when he had gone crowd surfing or sang from the bar. The rest of the energy levels on stage were slightly calmer too – it was almost as if they no longer felt the need to prove themselves and instead concentrated on letting the show flow.
With the new album now firmly lodged in everyone’s heads, the opening duo of ‘Breaking The Silence’ and ‘A Shot At Redemption’ had people’s fists punching from the off before a trio from 2012′s Address the Nation in ‘Better Off’, with keyboardist Jonah Tee to the fore, ‘Heartbreaker’ with its infectious ‘who-oh’ pay off to the chorus and ‘Its All About Tonight’.
However the live set reflects the band’s absolute belief in the new material and the next trio showed just how the band has diversified – ‘Inferno’ had a furious energy, ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ with Erik playing acoustic has become something of an anthem and ‘Mannequin Show’ comes over as a fun live track.
Their first two, more AOR, albums prior to Erik’s arrival now take a back seat in the set with only ‘Late Night Lady’ and a fun ‘Beg Beg Beg’, complete with Swedish swearwords and a snatch of Highway Star allowing Jonah to indulge his Jon Lord impression.
There was very little chat but Erik regularly spoke of their love for London and reminded us that their May show has been recorded for a forthcoming live album. He also promised to make amends for the song that day where the sound cut out but interestingly, despite it being handwritten onto a setlist I was shown at the end, the said ‘Danger Road’ did not get played, intentionally or otherwise.
The pacing of the show was also well judged – solo slots were kept to a minimum and the tempo only dropped on a superb ‘All The Nights’; with Erik accompanied only by Jonah and the more reflective ‘Downtown’, before it rose again with ‘Enemy In Me’, perhaps their hardest sounding song yet, and ‘Emergency’, with its catchy ‘won’t you tell the Doctor that I need her now’ refrain after the main chorus.
Nevertheless however good the new album is, the first two encores from ‘Address The Nation’ took the set to a different level with a very ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ intro leading into the massive choruses of ‘Breaking The Silence’ and ‘Living On The Run’ having the hooks that demand bouncing in the air.
There was even a bonus when in a departure from the core set they have been touring all year they came back for an extra song in the more mid-pocket ‘Laughing At Tomorrow’ – by my reckoning making it all but two songs from the new album played.
‘The Heat Is On’ has been the band’s trademark intro song from day one, but their success in 2014 suggests that Asia’s ‘The Heat Goes On’ might be the more appropriate eighties throwback in future. While slightly short of their peak they reached at Firefest this performance H.E.A.T. showed an assurance that will surely carry into larger venues before too long.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Jim Templeton-Cross and Laurence Harvey
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 July.. In the first hour David pays tribute to the blues/rock guitarist Peter Green.
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