Live: NOTHING BUT THIEVES // Roundhouse, London
Nothing But Thieves play first out of two shows at London’s iconic Roundhouse.
Tonight concludes a pretty confusing and morally conflicting week for music fans, in particular fans of Nothing But Thieves. The last few days have seen multiple Twitter allegations of sexual misconduct made against members of the band, conveniently within days of their sold-out headline shows at the Roundhouse.
The atmosphere in the room has a tense air to it, and the other photographers in the pit have all naturally fallen into discussion about the matter at hand, should we be here? What should be believed? NME have already pulled the band from an upcoming gig due to moral obligation and July Talk have pulled themselves from the support slot they held on previous tour dates, immediately giving more gravitas to the situation.
All this raises the age-old question: can you separate the art from the artist?
Erupting onto the stage to I’m Not Made By Design from the new album, the excitement from the crowd is building with the crescendo of the song, and Conor Mason’s soaring vocals are commanding the movements of the audience from the first line. Every single person here tonight seems captivated from the get go, with their signature combination of chugging guitar, anthemic choruses and eerie falsetto uniting the sold-out venue in sing alongs for fan favourites Trip Switch and Wake Up Call from their debut album.
The stage set up and lighting turns the whole performance into an ethereal experience, with hundreds of colour changing spotlights and floodlights lighting up the crowd and creating an impressive visual addition to the performance. The band themselves are in front of a backdrop similar to the Broken Machine artwork, surrounded by lightning bolt-esque strobes.
Choosing not to address the allegations so far, the set takes on a more sombre tone with the beautiful Graveyard Whistling, a song from their earliest EP in 2014, before exploding back into new album opener I Was Just A Kid, followed by Hanging and Itch.
Almost three quarters of the way through a mind-blowing set, the band take a break and Conor takes to the stage solo to perform a chilling rendition of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin, presumably as a tribute to the late legend. Despite the overall lack of crowd interaction, he keeps thanking London for coming out tonight with a clear sincerity to his voice, before proceeding to play a solo acoustic cover of Hell, Yeah.
The rest of the band return to the stage to finish the set with Ban All The Music, Sorry, and an encore of Particles and Amsterdam, with the finale turning into more of mind-boggling light show and overall experience than vocal showcase.
As impressive and fulfilling as the set this evening has been, the underlying context detracted from the enjoyment. Is there truth behind the allegations? Should everyone in the room be more conscious of the potential of their favourite band being sexual predators?
Should we be separating the art from the artist? These allegations have come at a time when an entire sex abuse scandal is occurring across the UK, spanning multiple industries and professions, and ultimately context proves to be essential to assessing all culture. I go home feeling even more internally conflicted than before, anxious to hear the outcome of the legal action being taken by Nothing But Thieves, but dizzy with adrenaline from one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time.
Photos: Anna Smith