LIVE REVIEW: State Champs, Beauty School, O2 Academy Islington, 09/06/2023
Photo Credit: Emma Barrott
It’s been a while since State Champs have been in town and as part of their short trip to the UK for Download Festival, the band also made a stop at O2 Academy Islington for a pop-punk perfection sold-out show.
Due to it being an early doors show, we unfortunately missed Out of Love opening the show but made it in for pop-punk/emo outfit Beauty School’s set. Since the release of their debut album Happiness last year, the band have been gaining attention both in the UK and further afield having just got back from playing Slam Dunk Italy, with the London venue apparently warmer than the festival. Showcasing their album via tracks including Evergreen with exquisite twirling guitar lines, the potential for this to be a great show opener was there, but whether it was the heat or something else the energy in the room was lacking with the crowd’s attention seemingly elsewhere leading to a less than memorable start to our night. 6/10
With this show selling out almost instantly and it being their first at the venue since 2016, the excitement and anticipation for the fun which was to come was building by the second. Strolling onto stage with Derek DiScanio immediately checking in with the crowd ‘Are you ready?’ as Just Sound kicked off the set, the crowd were definitely ready to give the band their all and make the trip worth it. Every pop-punk show needs a crowd surfer or ten, by the time Eventually came around, there were hands in the sky, bodies throwing and smiles gracing the band’s faces (we saw you Tyler Szalkowski!).
‘London, holy shit we’re back!’ exclaimed DiScanio and the fans couldn’t have been more delighted as they showcased tracks from across their discography including fan favourites Criminal and classic pop-punk anthem Elevated. At points, the band needn’t have sung with the volume of the crowd far exceeding all musical offering from the stage. This year marks ten years of the band’s debut The Finer Things with DiScanio taking time to take a trip down memory lane from their last show in 2016 at the venue to the favourite faces in the crowd who they see on their trips to London, thanking those who were there at the start right through to those who’ve just joined their journey and confirming they were ‘overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude’.
Despite this being an up-tempo energetic set for most of the night, would it really be a State Champs show without some beautiful guitar led ballads? Half Empty kicked off the calmer part of the set as the venue was lit up with phone torches and lighters for a simply beautiful moment. Stripping it back further to the acoustic bare bones, the bubble-gum pop-punk sound was replaced with simplistic twangy guitar lines and sincere vocals during Crying Out Loud and If I’m Lucky. Moments like these are made for the intimate surroundings of the Islington venue and were simply breathtaking.
As we headed towards the end of their set, the throwback anthems of our younger years came out in full force. From All You Are Is History to a mega-mix mashup of Deadly Conversation / Hurry Up and Wait / Losing Myself / All or Nothing / Breaking Ground, the finger points were out and the awards for the slickest transitions between tracks very rightly so would go to the quartet. Double whammy closer of Secrets and Everybody But You, gave one final opportunity for the fans to give their all back to the band who had given them so much tonight. State Champs are one of ‘those’ bands who simply excel live and justice isn’t done when listening to them recorded, we mean we love their recorded material but they simply come alive in a live setting. The unity between the band was impressive with their synchronised jumps, the driving force of Evan Ambrosio on the drums or the inability to take our eyes off DiScanio, Szalkowski and Ryan Scott Graham who were simply having the best time on stage bringing the calm and the chaos when needed.
London and the UK will always have a space in their hearts for State Champs and we think the feeling is mutual. The band mentioned rumblings of a headline tour taking place next year, so keep your eyes peeled for that as we’ll definitely be seeing you there! 9/10
Written By: Nicola Craig
Photo Credit: Emma Barrott