Every now and then a gig comes up that you just can't miss, whether it be a band reforming, playing their first shows in the country for however long or knocking out that album you loved back in the day. For this particular gig it was the latter – Alien Ant Farm performing their debut album in full in the confines of the smaller room in the recently rebranded O2 Institute. On top of this, someone had the belting idea of adding InMe and The Dirty Youth as supports. Seemingly a fine trio of bands to dispel the winter chills that had finally descended on the Midlands.
Turning up slightly later than intended and after a more thorough security check than normal by some lovely people working security I was greeted by the site and smells of a gig for the first time in 2016. The Institute’s smaller room (cunningly named ‘2’) was pretty much full, justifying the bump up from the Rainbow Warehouse where this was originally booked. The Dirty Youth were already on stage and an army of 30 something gig goers were stood staring at them as they gave it their all. I’ve seen The Dirty Youth on four separate occasions in the past 18/24 months and each time has resulted in different emotions. On this occasion it was a certain degree of nonchalance. Frontwoman Danni Monroe seemed to be doing her best Justin Hawkins impression in a sparkly number that did little to distract from some dramatic 80s power ballad style hand gestures. As a band they have a couple of decent tracks, Alive and Fight, that have the ability to get the crowd moving, but this crowd was not moved in the slightest - literally. In a time where there are several female fronted bands that are making waves (Halestorm, Marmozets, to name just an obvious couple) the Dirty Youth seem to be stuck in 2010, content with their 'rock by the books' style and performances. This opinion seemed to be echoed around the room when they left the stage to nothing more than a polite round of applause. It seems TDY are going to have to quickly step it up a level unless they want to slip even further behind the long list of UK bands that are consistently on top of their game.
One of those bands hit the very same stage not too many minutes after TDY left it. InMe have entered their 20th year as a band in 2016 and with that have accrued a vast array of high quality music. In Birmingham, their nine song setlist spanned their entire career taking songs from their debut album Overgrown Eden, through to 2015's Trilogy:Dawn. Opening up with Saccharine Arcadia saw the rawness that InMe can bring and the midpoint brought Safe In A Room to show how wide-ranging the InMe catalogue is. On this night, the most striking element on show is Dave McPherson’s vocals. Within seconds of his first words you can feel the depth he has at his disposal, ranging from clean high notes to deep raspy growls in heartbeat, his voice being used as instrument more than any vocalist I've seen before. The strain on his face shows just how much he puts into each set and the sweat pouring off him reiterates that. Now, anyone at the show thinking the only reason to be there was the American rockers due to follow InMe was hastily corrected as a legion of fans sang along and generally made themselves known. This was a fine showing from one of the most underrated bands of the past two decades. New fans were kept happy with Hymn: Ivory Elder and the more classic fans were entertained by Firefly and Faster The Chase. Nobody was left disappointed by Dave and Co and the requests for more from the crowd, despite landing on deaf ears, were well received.
The main event on the night was a Californian four-piece that gained worldwide renown for a cover and for many, aside from 'that other song', have always been seen as a bit of a gimmick. Alien Ant Farm are a band that many non-rock fans will know for their cover of Jacko's Smooth Criminal, but as they came on stage and flew straight in to the opening track from ANThology, Courage, it seems that the Midlands has produced fans whose appreciation runs deeper. On top of this, it was evident that vocalist Dryden Mitchell was well up for this run - his demeanour on stage (potentially aided by some form of substance) was significantly better than it was on their nostalgia tour the previous year. Headlining the bill to adoring fans seemed to give him the kick up the arse he needed and his signature dance moves were proudly displayed from the off. One thing that is for sure is that these guys aren't one/two hit wonders - ANThology is an album that has been somewhat forgotten over the years, but it's portrayal here shows that it is standing up to the test of time. The highlights on the night were Movies - for getting the party start and everyone off their feet and singing along - and Attitude - for showing how deep ANThology goes. One big disappointment in this set came when Smooth Criminal was moved to the end of the encore and followed a couple of tracks from TruANT. Breaking up the set felt like it caused the atmosphere to suffer and because of this the Michael Jackson tribute wasn't the all out party I was hoping for. Still, the crowd's reaction to it was still enough to have relieved Dryden of his vocal duties for a few minutes. At the end of the night, the crowd filtered out into the Birmingham streets content with what they had just seen and with Movies still ringing in their ears.