The Automatic - Scala, London
Coming on stage to fellow countryman Tom Jones’ Help Yourself, it’s clear from the start that The Automatic don’t take themselves too seriously. However they do take their music seriously as what followed was a blistering hour long set that was heavy on the rocking, and not so much on the mocking.
Opening their set with a cracking fast-paced double bill of Raoul and Lost At Home from Not Accepted Anywhere, it was clear that The Automatic meant business. After settling the fans in with the old favourites, I was then treated to my favourite song from This Is A Fix, Responsible Citizen, which already sounds like it could be a monster hit (couldn’t help myself). The euphoria from that song was possibly carried on to Into The Mountains, which sounded much better than I remember it being from the album.
The confidence and freedom of the band was in evidence as well as they unleashed Monster only five songs into the set, almost as a gesture to critics who disregarded them as a ‘one hit wonder’. Before tonight I hadn’t heard in a while which helped it seem almost fresh and made me appreciate just how good of a song it is, made all the more better with normal backing vocals instead of a incessant screeching. It also showcased just how the band had changed from their early days with some welcome heavy riffs added in during the frantic final bars.
Following Monster, the band had the crowd so far in the palms of their hands that they could have carried out an impromptu Tom Jones karaoke set and still sent the fans home happy. Fortunately, they decided to carry on racing through a generally solid set albeit with one criticism, almost too much focus on the new album. Now I know what you’re going to say that it’s a tour to promote the album, but with almost half of the album already on display tonight, it almost came to the point of overkill. Just by swapping the mediocre filler track of This Ship from This Is A Fix for the ace Seriously…I Hate You Guys from Not Accepted Anywhere, and it would have been a much stronger gig.
Still, no-one else seemed to complain and after a rabble-rousing Recover to end their main set, the band went off for the now obligatory break before the encore, despite what James Frost tried to claim that tonight was the first time this tour they’ve done it. It showcased perfectly the band’s new sound with an ear-splittingly loud Light Entertainment, while also showing off the band’s playful attitude with their Live Lounge cover of Usher’s Love In This Club. All rounded off with arguably the best-received song of the night, recent single Steve McQueen.
An overall criticism of the gig would be that crowd participation was very much limited. Apart from the odd encouragement to clap and sing along to their main songs like Monster and Steve McQueen, the band almost seemed not to bother and just played through their set. It could be argued that the band shouldn’t need to encourage the crowd but it always adds an extra dimension to a gig when a band does. There’s a fine line between encouraging the crowd and over-doing it, but when it was clear that the crowd were fully warmed up after Monster, the band could have got away with a lot more interaction.
The same could be said of the on stage banter which was limited to just one occasion when the band mocked Rob Hawkins about not being able to play the bass line for This Is A Fix. It’s almost as if the band fear that they won’t be taken seriously if they indulged in a bit of on stage banter, when really it would help increase the overall strength of the gig just be adding a bit of humour into the mix.
That being said, the positives far outweighed the negatives in what was a very impressive performance by The Automatic, especially since my minor gripes might not even been seen as negatives by other people. As long as they continue to create such indie pop gems like Monster, Steve McQueen and Responsible Citizen, then they can’t really fail to entertain their fans and create some new ones in the process.