Anyone who grew up listening to alternative music probably at some point rocked out to Papa Roach, and I don’t think there’s a soul alive who couldn’t sing along to at least the chorus of 'Last Resort'. I did admittedly have a little bit of fear in me going to see them on Tuesday night that, after hearing that the song that put them on the music map would be played first. Usually, you leave that kind of thing for the encore to try and limit the number of people leaving early. So getting it over and done with really is the biggest power move I can think of from a band.
Before we get to that point in the evening, however, there were a few supports to try and warm up the already very sweaty crowd. Representing the North East was Durham’s Twister, a rock ensemble who were unmistakably “in a band.” Think back-combed hair, leather jackets, and a constant trail of local fans following them across the venue. On stage, though, I felt a little bit of déjà vu – I’m fairly certain I’ve heard all their songs before, just from other bands. There’s some glam rock in there in aesthetic and sound (although the bassist looked like he’d wandered in from an indie band), while their final song transported me straight back to 2007 with some real emo/pop punk style vocals. Twister gave out a lot of energy, though, and it was impossible not to be entertained by the cacophony of noise coming from the stage. A little bit more personality between songs might have been nice to get to know the band a little better, but with a tight opening slot, I can understand prioritising an extra song over a bit of banter.
Besides, Nothing More followed them with enough stage presence for days. Their performance started off with vocalist Jonny Hawkins scaling a pole to reach an air siren for a very sudden and loud introduction to the band, and from there they continued with this level of unpredictability. Proggy rock and nu-ish heavy metal blended into dubstep-tinged alternative: whether it was their genre, heavy metal drum duets, or a Mad Max style synthesiser contraption called “the Scorpion Tail” rising from the ground, I had literally no idea what Nothing More were going to do next. On the surface, it looked like they didn’t either, with chaos appearing to reign on the stage. But, whether it’s drummer Ben Anderson’s calculated swings at his kit, or Hawkins’ frantic movements (which some may dare to call dancing – I’m less convinced), Nothing More knew exactly what they needed to do to bring a captivating show to Newcastle.
With all that said, Papa Roach kicking off their set with 'Last Resort' turned out to be the smartest move they could pull – with everyone still so hyped up coming off Nothing More’s show, the energy somehow grew exponentially. Starting with their greatest hit makes even more sense when you realise just how much Papa Roach have changed musically: this nu metal hit going so early in the set gives you a better idea of the progression this band. 'Hollywood Whore' bridged the gap stylistically between the old and the new, and a bonus for this grimy, raw alternative rock came from vocalist Jacoby Shaddix mingling with the crowd and taking a full tour of the Academy’s standing area to give those of us at the back some good photo opportunities. Newer tracks like 'Elevate' from latest album Who Do You Trust? bring us full circle, as Papa Roach dabble a little more in rap but with a bit more of a pop vibe this time round. Despite the endless flitting back and forth between genres, the crowd never seemed to lose energy – a huge feat given rock fans’ usual snobbery at the slightest change to an artist’s sound. I worried the audience would deplete once they’d heard what they wanted, but it turns out my faith was misjudged and that Papa Roach is much more than a one trick pony. Twenty years later, they’re still pulling crowds and keeping them there – despite, or maybe even because of, Papa Roach’s development.