Live Review American Football, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 11th February 2017

American Football, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

The venue is resplendent in the celebration of the moment.

When American Football released their debut album in 1999, they never expected they’d find themselves here. Seventeen years down the line, on a stage in London, performing in front of 2000 people, the emo stalwarts stand stronger than ever before. 

These are songs that spoke to a generation. But tonight is anything but a nostalgia trip. Against a backdrop of their second album artwork, an open door inside that iconic house, American Football welcome the crowd into their world. 

Playing their second self-titled record in its entirety, the venue is resplendent in the celebration of the moment. The songs echo with a crystal clarity that holds the venue captivated. Steve Lamos’ performance behind the drum kit sounds larger and more invigorated than ever, rhythms stumbling and regaining stability with an innate adroitness. From the front of the stage, Mike Kinsella’s vocals glide with an ease fine-tuned in his years spent performing as Owen and in various side projects. 

‘I’ve Been Lost For So Long’ stands out, the track’s melodic cries of desperation and confusion leaving the room aglow in appreciation. The angular refrains of ‘Desire Gets In The Way’, strongly reminiscent of the American Football of old, lace the air with energy, while the twinkling lament of ‘Everyone Is Dressed Up’ draw a definitive line through the night as the band exit the stage. 

Returning for an extended encore of early releases, American Football show that although it may have taken them over a decade and a half to get here, right from the start the songs this band made were always destined for adulation. The ebb and flow of ‘Stay Home’ resounds as enchantingly here as the day anyone first heard it, while ‘Never Meant’ becomes an ethereal anthem, towering riffs and lyrical refrains echoed back in fondness by the crowd. 

The band may have been apart for longer than they’ve been together, but in front of a crowd singing back the words that have spoken to so many for so long, their enduring appeal is one it’s impossible to tear away from. 

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Photos: Jonathan Dadds