Original image courtesy of TandA Media
Review by Michael O'Neill
“I’M HEARTSICK / AND WELL REHEARSED.” Jeremy Bolm barked out his mission statement as his band, Touché Amoré, launched into their setlist opener “Flowers and You.” Bolm shouts these fully-accurate words just as the song - which also kicks off the band’s newest album Stage Four - transitions from its melodic intro into a full-fledged punk onslaught. Throughout the night, Bolm and the rest of the LA-based quintet released cathartic energy in the form of tightly-wound punk songs that threatened to run off the rails, but never quite did.
As part of the touring behind Stage Four, the show on Saturday, October 22 was Touché Amoré’s second time at The Met in three years. The warehouse-turned-music-venue is flanked by bars on either side of the room, and allows fans to get up close and personal with artists as they perform, which is where Touché Amoré clearly wanted them. Moshers and stage-divers dominated the center of the crowd, and Bolm held the microphone out towards the eager fanbase on more than a few occasions.
Before Touché Amoré could take the stage, however, opening acts Culture Abuse and Tiny Moving Parts set the tone for the night with two invigorating sets. Culture Abuse, a no-modifiers-necessary rock group from San Francisco, packed more guitars and headbanging into five songs than one thought possible. Frontman David Kelling stumbled onto stage, noticeably tipsy, but that didn’t prevent him from leading his group through a rip-roaring performance. Wearing a winter coat with the hood up, Kelling bellowed into the microphone “uncomfortable / uncomfortable” during the anthemic set-closer “Turn It Off.” Tiny Moving Parts came next, and with them came an incredibly passionate cult following; many younger fans showed up and moshed just during their set, leaving before the actual headliner. Tiny Moving Parts combined an upbeat emo-influenced sound with electrifying guitar theatrics and guttural vocals for a set that was part melodic and part explosive.
The crowd grew bigger and bigger before Touché Amoré finally emerged from backstage, about to give one of the most emotionally-charged shows I’ve ever seen. Their newest album, Stage Four, is a collection of songs all dealing with the death of frontman Jeremy Bolm’s mother - hence the “heartsick” mentioned in his opening lines of the night. Performing these songs - which regularly switch back and forth between sung and screamed - visibly allowed Bolm great emotional release, and the crowd fed off of it. “Somehow it’s already been a year,” he growled during “New Halloween.” You could see the grief on Bolm’s face and hear it in his voice and lyrics, but never did he come undone.
Sound-wise, Touché Amoré’s live show captures the mixture of melody and aggression on display in their studio recordings. The drumming was incredibly tight, the bass rumbled, and the guitars crunched and consumed the room. Bolm’s voice sounds just as it does on record: powerful yet fragile and controlled when shouting, somber and bassy when singing. He deftly maneuvered through both on “Benediction,” first singing and later shouting, “you left a hole in this earth / And you paid for it up front / I had to fill it with dirt.” Later, on “Eight Seconds,” Bolm recalled the heart-wrenching message he got informing him of his mother’s passing after a show: “She passed away about an hour ago / While you were on stage living the dream.”
The group also ripped through tracks from past albums, which generally had an even harder punk edge. Minor hit “~” proved a crowd-pleaser early on. “DNA” was a frantic two-minute romp during which the mosh pit became especially rowdy; I held my place away from the chaos by standing off to the right side of the stage, though still close enough to make out every ounce of pain in Bolm’s facial expressions.
The best number of the night was indisputably “Palm Dreams,” the lead single from Stage Four and one of the few radio-ready songs they’ve ever written. A quick drum fill led into a pummeling verse where Bolm bounded around the stage asking, “what was it that brought you west?” The band flawlessly transitioned into the more melodic chorus, with a repeated moan of “on my own” ringing out throughout the venue. No other moment during the show demonstrated the multi-faceted nature of Touché Amoré’s talents and sound, and the crowd recognized their passion and returned it ten-fold.
Touché Amoré plugged way through another ten songs or so - though notably not “Skyscraper,” the explosively emotional Stage Four closer and third single - before finishing up with a one-song encore. “Non Fiction” provided a climactic ending note, starting slow before swelling to its breaking point. For a punk band, Touché Amoré’s live show is remarkably controlled, balancing musicality and passion with tact and ease. Bearing witness to an emotional outpouring from Bolm and his bandmates was a truly unique concert experience, and one that fans everywhere will be glad they didn’t pass up.