Nothing But Thieves
opening for AWOLNATION
February 20, 2018 @ House of Blues
By: Juliette Paige
Sometimes you know a concert is going to blow your mind the second you walk into the venue and you’re surrounded by college kids and middle aged parents, all decorated with band paraphernalia of all three bands performing. On February 21, 2018, I was given the wild opportunity to attend and photograph a concert with one of the most solid modern rock line-ups I’ve ever witnessed in my college career. Picture this: AWOLNATION’s “Here Come the Runts” Tour, featuring Nothing But Thieves and IRONTOM. All three bands have paved their own path in the alternative rock music scene, with AWOLNATION’s breaking ground with their indie electro rock album Megalythic Symphony in 2013 (which consisted of most of my high school jams), Nothing But Thieves being a rising UK band and European music fest headliners, and IRONTOM redefining modern rock n’ roll with their electrifying rock sound. I almost felt like I didn’t deserve to see all bands perform at once.
First, IRONTOM, the least known of the three bands, stormed the stage and took the audience by surprise. Two of the four members, Zach Irons and Daniel Saslow, are also band members in AWOLNATION (really makes touring easier, right?). This was my third time seeing the band, and they have gotten tighter and tighter with every performance. Their energy is indescribably powerful and frontman Harry Hayes is so entertaining to see perform. While most of the audience wasn’t initially familiar with their music, the crowd was enthusiastic to let loose and rock out with the band. I was amongst the surprised crowd when I first saw them live in June 2017, and I was completely blown away by their nostalgic rock n’ roll sound mixed with modern LA vibes. I remember hoping the band sounded as good recorded as they sounded live (rather than the conventional other way around), and they absolutely do. After IRONTOM performed, they certainly had a venue worth of new fans.
As the stage set up for the next act, Nothing But Thieves, I could tell that a good portion of the audience were actually at the concert for them instead of AWOLNATION, the headliner. As audience anxiously waited, the lights dimmed, and the five members of Nothing But Thieves ran on and started rocking out to their first song of the set, ‘I’m Not Made by Design,’ off their sophomore album, Broken Machine. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Conor Mason came dressed in slacks and a long sleeved white shirt under a striped T-shirt. And while his outfit took me back to middle school, his vocal abilities and talent made up for his lack of fashion. Any track on both Nothing But Thieves’ albums showcases Mason’s incredible vocal range that you don’t hear too often on alternative rock tracks. What amazed me, though, is that he can actually belt those notes live.
The Nothing But Thieves set continued with ‘Wake Up Call,’ a hit single off their debut self-titled album, and more tracks off their newest album, including ‘Number 13’ and ‘Soda.’ A major highlight from their set was their performance of ‘I Was Just a Kid,’ which consisted of thunderous guitar riffs and a wailing, anthem of a chorus that Mason belted flawlessly without a note missed. The song brought the energy up with the venue pulsating and the audience rocking out.
Next, the band kept the high energy up with their most popular track off their first album, ‘Trip Switch,’ which the audience recognized after half a bar of its introductory bass line. After a roaring applause from the crowd, Mason began thanking everyone for coming and asked, “How many of you have seen us before?”
Cue the hysterically yelling from a select group of people in the crowd.
“Well, if you’ve seen us before, then you know our music is all over the fucking place. So, uh, here’s a new track off our latest album. It’s called ‘Sorry.’”
If the track weren’t their most popular song at the moment, ‘Sorry’ would have been an awkward song to play right after a pure rock song like ‘I Was Just a Kid.’ In fact, the song was instrumentally and vocally performed beautifully, but the stage performance lacked heavily in this song in particular. From the motions of Mason’s body to the movements of the guitarists, everything about the song seemed staged. So while I personally love the song’s lyrics and instrumentals, ‘Sorry’ was a personal low of the night. The band finished their opening set strong with ‘Amsterdam,’ the track that actually follows ‘Sorry’ on their album just as it did in the concert. Mason thanked the audience again for coming and said he and the band would be at the merchandise table during the break to say hi to fans. Sure enough, a swarm of people rushed the tiny table to buy their newest Nothing But Thieves shirts and hoodies and hopefully snap a selfie with Conor Mason and the men of Nothing But Thieves.
After the break (and while a good portion of the crowd were still in line to talk to Nothing But Thieves), AWOLNATION performed and finished the night with an exhilarating set of old and new hits. Beginning with their first track of their new album, ‘Here Come the Runts,’ Aaron Bruno made his appearance on the second floor of the venue wearing a Here Come the Runts cape and a cowboy hat. He sprinted down the stairs and joined his band on the stage, and the audience went nuts. While AWOLNATION played songs off their newest album, including ‘Seven Sticks of Dynamite,’ ‘Passion,’ ‘Handyman,’ and ‘Stop That Train,’ it was evident that the crowd were fans who followed the band since their debut album, Megalythic Symphony. The energy increased tremendously when the band started playing the original hits that angsty teenage me jammed out to, including ‘Kill Your Heroes,’ ‘Not Your Fault,’ and ‘Run.’ The most memorable song was, unsurprisingly, their last song of their encore: ‘Sail.’ Already thinking the song would be incredible live, ‘Sail’ is given another dimension when it was performed. Aaron Bruno loses himself in his lyrics and the music, and he ends the show chanting “WE ARE THE AWOLNATION” with the audience.
Overall, the energy of the crowd was amazing, the bands were amazing, and the night exceeded my high expectations of a rock show.