If live performances at Norwich’s, ‘The Waterfront’, have ever excelled in one, very simple way, it would be intimacy. Being relatively small compared to most others, the 1993 established venue has attracted a surprisingly wide variety of performers across its 25 year tenure, such as the likes of Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, Stereophonics and Radiohead. From observation alone, it’s smaller size seemingly offers the artists something of a reprieve from far more draining stadium filler performances, often leading to a far more close and personal relationship between the spectators and the show before them.
Opening supporting act for Highly Suspect’s 30thJanuary appearance at ‘The Waterfront’ comes in the form of Arkansas rock artist, Welles. Fronted by Jeh Sea Wells, the only official studio member for the project, and a supportive live band, Welles immediately strikes a similar chord to the likes of pure 90s grunge, rocking the kind of riffs to be expected from classic Stone Temple Pilots or Nirvana of the era. The performance navigates a mixture of 7-8 songs, some picked from debut 2017 EP, Codine, such as ‘Codine’ and ‘Hold Me Like I’m Leaving’, and Welles’ effectively captures the attention of all attending in the midst of a competent, moody performance.
Introducing Highly Suspect with instrumental track, ‘F.W.Y.T’, and starting things with an off-hand comment from frontman Johnny Stevens regarding how little the band has performed in the last few months, (and whether or not he can actually remember how to play the first song), the Massachusetts’ band immediately goes on to kick things off with early Mister Asylum numbers ‘Bath Salts’ and ‘Lost’, rendering much of the crowd a bounding, bouncing mass of bodies within seconds. The band soon goes on to work their way through several fan favorites, such as ‘Lydia’ and ‘Claudeland’, while also including plenty of newer material from sophomore effort, The Boy Who Died Wolf, such as ‘Viper Strike’, ‘Serotonia’, and hit single ‘My Name Is Human’.
A surprising amount of the performance is also dedicated to an assortment of extended jams and unreleased material, one notable instance being a lengthy drum solo/battle between drummer Ryan Meyer, and one of the band’s few roadies/stagehands. It’s at some point during these many moments that the dawning realization occurs; Highly Suspect are displaying the many tell-tale signs of a band having, quite simply, an absolute blast. Alongside champagne and beer spraying, drinks mid-song, and plenty of amusing comments and expressions from Stevens directed at both his own bandmates and the audience, it’s evident a family atmosphere has well and truly set in for both the performers and fans alike, taking full advantage of the venue’s close and personal atmosphere, and loving every minute of it.
While Johnny Stevens and Co. certainly come across as the kind of band to ridicule the phrase, ‘tour de force’, the simple fact remains that as a sheer blunt instrument of energy and infectious enthusiasm, Highly Suspect are about as explosive as you’re likely to get. Amidst scorching guitar solos, a truly dedicated following and an undeniably captivating attitude towards simply having fun, Highly Suspect’s continuing conquest to reinvigorate modern rock music has entered 2018 on a damn good start.
Related Content: [AltWire Interview] Rich Meyer of Highly Suspect