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YELLOWCARD Wave Their Last Goodbye

The punk rock heroes embark on their final world tour.

I think we can all agree that 2016 has not been the best. Luckily, it’s almost over, and luckily music has not abandoned us in those tough moments, being the most reliable friend.

What a journey it’s been. Technically twenty years since Yellowcard came around, which is almost 2/3 of my entire lifetime. Stupid as it may sound, I still remember when Ocean Avenue was my favourite jam.

There is an excitement and nostalgia about seeing your favourite band for the very first time, but knowing this might also be the last, well that’s a totally different thing.

Yellowcard have shaped my music taste, and myself, in a very significant way and for that I will be eternally grateful. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling like this here tonight.

As I enter O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on this Thursday night I spot many people sporting Final World Tour T-shirts, a few individuals are holding posters with personal messages written on them, a couple are hugging Ocean Avenue street plates, and one or two tears have already been shared.

However, before the men of the night emerge on stage we hear a message coming out of the speakers. First, the deep voice welcomes us to the final world tour, but then it delivers a request from the band who are asking the audience to put their phones down, and take advantage of the miracle which is a human eyeball, during the performance as they prefer to see the crowd’s faces. Quite unusual approach, but it works.

After the complete darkness covers the room and loud screams arise Yellowcard jump on the stage and kick off with the track Believe. For many people here it feels like a graceful return, for the rest – the only opportunity to experience the American band’s live show.

I think it’s fair to say that having ten studio albums at their disposal, the repertoire Yellowcard choose will easily fit into fan favourites. It doesn’t take long for the crowd to totally lose it as the second song, Lights and Sounds, sees a runner being chased by the security in the narrow photo pit. Well, if that counts for anything that is just the beginning.

Yellowcard continue with their thunderous set as they spin the massive Way Away and Always Summer which is a perfect way to fight the winter cold.

Suitably after Five Becomes Four, lead singer Ryan Key gives a short speech.

“Hello London! We’ve played only five songs so far and I know you won’t let us down. The vibes in this room are strong. When we were doing soundcheck we didn’t know there were three balconies. Thank you because there is no fucking seat left!”, he says proceeding with the introduction of Jimmy Brunkvist (Like Torches), who has taken up drumming duties for this tour. “Jimmy learnt over 30 Yellowcard songs, no rehearsal”.

“Everyone in this room goes home tonight with no fucking voices left. Next morning you’ll find the person you love and say you had the best night of your life at Yellowcard show. But that will be a lie if you can speak tomorrow! Maybe Ocean Avenue was your tune when you were six, or maybe you’ve just started listening to us. You can make up the words as long as you sing back at me! We’ve only five songs down, out of 23. This is gonna be fucking amazing”.

And after thanking Hopeless Records the band proceeds with new offerings taken from this year’s eponymous album. Rest In Piece leaves an emotional mark on the fans whilst What Appears is stated to be about them specifically as slow steady hands are waving their last goodbye.

This is a band with many years of valid live experience and that surely shows. Ryan Mendez‘s on-point guitars coexist with Josh Portman‘s groovy bass lines in a perfect symbiosis creating the punchy sound as all members of the band make their engagement look effortless. What’s more, these guys know their fans well, even more “they trust them”, I think as I’m watching the violinist Sean Mackin bravely stage diving on Rough Landing, Holly.

There is no quiet moment during the set, and not all credit goes to the band. The crowd does a pretty good job with screaming their lungs out when Yellowcard hit the chords of tracks Awakening and Light Up The Sky. There’s nothing left for Key to say besides: “I don’t know how any show will be better than this”.

It feels special indeed, especially as we head onto one of the most beautiful tracks, Sing For Me from 2011’s When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, which is the longest Yellowcard album title ever taken from a text Key once sent to a lady, as he openly reveals.

After a while frontman shares that the song was written for a friend who died from cancer: “We had a chance to sing it once for her. I know many of you have lost someone close but the fact they’re not here doesn’t mean they can’t hear it”, he switches to the keys as two thousand voices join in and tears start flowing down many cheeks.

As we can slowly sense the ending creeping up on us, the show becomes more and more emotional. Yellowcard remind the audience with every song that it’s all been for them. The times were tough when Lift a Sail came about and the fans helped them go through, or Gifts and Curses being dedicated to the hardcore ones.

“You guys are killing it! Anybody remembers the album Paper Walls?!”, they ask as Mackin flips back from the speaker. No biggie, really. I literally look around to check if anybody saw it. Well, of course they did. The guy just did a BACKFLIP onstage!

Next, I hit the arching of the ceiling with my head as I commence jumping a little bit too eagerly to the sound of the song Breathing.

“It’s pretty fucking unbelievable. I’m just a man with an acoustic guitar about to play a song. I want you to sing this one the loudest you can. Let’s make it the loudest moment of the tour” Key shouts as he proceeds with the track Empty Apartment.

As Hang You Up and Be The Young round off the main set and we are being left with a fading sound of violin, the band disappears from the stage.

If there were a few individuals holding back until this very moment, Only One truly breaks them down as every single soul in this room is screaming their lungs out, just as the lyrics suggest.

“Thank you guys for being here tonight. There are people who have been supporting us for so long, but not as long as our agent. We owe you everything. We’re gonna miss you bud.”

“We’ve been on this journey and accomplished things we’d never dreamt of. We are very sad to say goodbye but also happy to play for you here tonight.”

“We’re Yellowcard! Let’s play Ocean Avenue!”

And just like that, it’s over. Yellowcard take a bow, then a photo with the crowd and wave their last goodbyes.

What a journey it’s been indeed. Twenty years locked inside of two hours that felt like a lifetime.

Photos: Kasia Osowiecka