Skillet - O2 Islington
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The O2 Islington is one of my favourite venues. I love that you can choose whether you want to be down in the pit at the front, or take the calmer option of the mezzanine bar and watch the proceedings from on high. For me, it's the perfect venue for Skillet's first ever London headline show.
Tonight's sold out crowd is a good reflection of Skillet's popularity here in the UK. It's surprising that it's taken these guys so long to book a headlining tour of our fair isle, but, talking to lead vocalist, songwriter and bassist extraordinaire John Cooper before the gig, it's clear that they were of the opinion that they only had a small, hardcore following. This is, most definitely not the case.
The lights go down and we get a soothing violin and cello introduction before the rest of the band hit the stage to rapturous applause and launch headlong into a blistering rendition of Whispers in the Dark. The band are a whirlwind of energy around the stage as they rattle through some of their anthemic back catalogue at breakneck speed. The pace slows momentarily as drummer and co-vocalist, Jen, comes to the front of the stage to perform a beautifully stripped down introduction to Awake and Alive. I could easily have listened to an entire version of the song performed like this, but after the introduction, Jen returns to the drums and a full bodied version of the track kicks in which is just as satisfying and epic.
Depending on how fans first came to hear of Skillet means that not everyone may be aware of the fact that Skillet are a christian metal band, having first encountered them through their inclusion on the WWE musical roster. You cannot help but appreciate the level of optimism and positive energy the band promote. This is brought sharply into focus during the introduction for The Last Night which is dedicated to anyone who has, or currently is sufferring from depression. John credits his beliefs for carrying him through the darker times and, regardless of your beliefs, you cannot help but feel uplifted by the sentiment within the song.
Some of the biggest cheers of the evening belonged to Jen, who hails from just up the road in Coventry, as she performs a drum solo showcasing just how sickeningly talented she actually is. The introductions section of the night shows off some of the phenomenal talent that exists within the band comprising violinist Jonathan Chu, cellist Tate Olson, lead guitarist Seth Morrison and, finally, the ludicrously talented Korey Cooper, guitarist, pianist, vocalist and co-songwriter amongst other things.
The rest of the evening is a showcase of hits from their impressive eight album back catalogue and it's testament to the band's enthusiasm that the whole room is still jumping when their set ends with the anthemic Monster after an hour and a half of them being on the stage.
In summary, tonight was an outstanding set from a band that deserve to be a lot bigger her in the UK than they currently are. Hopefully, with the latest round of shows under their belts they will return with more shows soon. When they inevitably do, I would defy anyone to come out from one of their gigs feeling anything other than upbeat, uplifted and ready to take on the world.
Keep an eye out on the site in the next few days for not only the podcast of my interview with John Cooper, but also a competition in which we'll be giving away a bunch of CDs including Skillet's platinum certified Awake.