Live review: Spiritbox, London O2 Academy Islington

Holy rollers Spiritbox continue their UK love-in at scorching London headline show…

Live review: Spiritbox, London O2 Academy Islington
James MacKinnon
Jenn Five

“I feel like we’re still in the honeymoon phase with these songs,” says Courtney LaPlante, the Spiritbox singer smiling as she addresses a room full of people packed tighter than a sardine’s holiday bag. The same can be said for their current love affair with the UK, which started only the day before at Download with a show-stealing set that, frankly, had to be seen to be believed.

Puffed up and buzzing from that victory, tonight not only signifies the band’s first headline show on these shores, but a chance to make good on the promise of bringing their songs to life onstage after the coronavirus pandemic scuppered their first UK tour in 2020. Even with Deftones playing up the road, this is the only show in this city that truly matters tonight.

Tonight’s bill also represents some of the most exciting prospects in rock’s new breed. Arriving with the crushing, inevitable force of a wrecking ball, openers Vexed crack the pit wide open. The band swing and stomp through Narcissist’s knotty metalcore, Megan Targett a fearsome presence as she growl-raps. By the time they bring Aurora’s soaring melodies down into a crucible of metal riffs like a butterfly caught in a firestorm, any hesitancy left in this crowd goes up in smoke.

Which suits Static Dress down to the ground. The post-hardcore mob’s flair for unhinged drama knows few restraints and tonight Olli Appleyard is a lightning rod of chaotic energy, contorting his body and voice with each wounded howl. Drummer Sam Ogden is also a manic powerhouse, roaring and waving at the crowd to give as good as they get. They duly oblige by joining clean.’s rousing chorus, hinting at bigger things to come.

Right now, though, it doesn’t get much bigger than Spiritbox and the tidal swell of energy that meets them as they bound onstage and launch into Circle With Me’s vortex. The gravitational centre of the room shifts to Courtney, self-assured and effortlessly cool, as both her and the crowd power the song’s rising melodic chorus into what feels like a show-stopping moment. Fortunately, they keep on coming as Yellowjacket (brutal) and Halcyon (heavenly) keep energy levels at a cathartic high.

Yet most memorable is the sense of conviction with which Spiritbox perform. Sure, it helps that these songs are as visceral as they are catchy, or that the band are tightly drilled. More than that, they seem utterly devoted to every note, from each explosive punch of Zev Rose’s drums to Courtney’s outpourings of confusion, despair or hope. It is abundantly clear that the experiences of Courtney and guitarist husband Mike Stringer are woven into every line.

“I’ve wanted to play this song for you ever since we originally booked these shows and it means so much to me because… fuck,” Courtney laughs, catching herself, “you’re making me emotional!” The feeling is very much mutual as everyone here gives their all to the anthemic, rising energy of Blessed Be, only to be swept away all over again by the seismic, undeniable juggernaut of Holy Roller.

Perhaps the real defining moment of this headline show, though, comes during the closing notes of Eternal Blue. As the band whip up the song’s thrilling finale around her, Courtney squats down and recognises a fan in the front row – perhaps from Download, or further afield. Sheer joy spreads across her face, radiating as they wave to one another. It is a small gesture, but the sense of connection is palpable because this music, this feeling, means as much to the people in this room now as it does to the band.

That’s what Spiritbox means. It’s why this is only the beginning of something very special.

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