Lee Hawthorn

Lisbon unleash new Life Is Good single at first o2 Academy headline gig

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It’s a rarity that I miss a gig from Whitley Bay’s Lisbon. The band fronted by Matthew Varty, are, in my opinion, the most promising, up-and-coming act coming from the North East right now. And, their meteoric rise to relative success in the past twelve months has been a pleasure to watch.

So, the news that they will be headlining Newcastle’s o2 Academy was the perfect way to celebrate the near-anniversary of the break through behemoth of Blue Love. Yet, it was somewhat underwhelming to find as I climbed the stairs of one of the regions most recognisable venues, that it was not the main stage of the refurbished Bingo Hall, I’d spend the next few hours but the side room in the o2 Academy 2.

It made no difference to the deft ability of Lisbon, but I couldn’t help feel my hype for the night depleted by the build up to what I thought was a massive milestone for the band. While it is still a notable step on their ladder to success, to perform in the o2 Academy, regardless of which stage – the secondary setting being sold out, was as much of a feat as their gigs in Riverside, and housed less people than their headlining of the Boilershop event in the summer.

The disappointment, unfortunately did not end there. Having missed Wake, who were first on the bill, I had just purchased the worst drink I’ve had in my life, when the non-descript Para Alta took to the stage and mumbled their way through interludes between tracks, that were themselves, distinctly average.

It didn’t take long to forget the pitfalls of the event so far however, when Lisbon finally opened up with consistent crowd pleaser Rio, and the charismatic liveability of Varty shone through, as he thanked the crowd for their attendance, encouraged them to have a dance and exuding the crowd control of a seasoned veteran. It wasn’t only the bands frontman feeding off the energy from the crowd however, with guitarist Joe Atkinson showing a confidence I’ve not seen from him before. He confidence peaked during Varty’s risky absence for the chorus of Blue Love, as Joe led the crowd into in the hook for what was easily the most enjoyable moment of any Lisbon gig I’ve been to.

While the divine De La Funk was ‘sent for an early bath’ according to the set-list Lisbon tweeted out moments before their performance, the hat-trick of fan favourites from Liberty City, Khaleesi and of course regional anthem Native, took to the pitch alongside a track the band had penned over the transfer window, Don’t Wanna Die. While I’m still not overly sold on Ambient as a track for gigs, given the relative shortness of the bands sets whilst De La Funk, and the forgotten brilliance of Beach Route are benched, the slower vibe is growing on me with each performance.

Their upcoming single, I Don’t Know, which was premiered by Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1, is sure to follow in the footsteps of their trifecta of hits the band have released prior, and I’m excited to hear how the studio recording differentiates from the live performance. Forgiving their over-hype in the build up to their first ever headlining o2 Academy 2, Lisbon are looking even better after their spotlight stealing efforts at Saint Motel’s shows in Digital at the close of 2014, and I can’t wait to witness their rise further into the success they’re working so hard towards, in 2015.

When Life Is Good is finally ready to drop, I’ll be first in line, both for the EP and tickets to its launch.