Review: Modern Baseball bid farewell for now at London’s O2 Forum

Modern Baseball deliver an unexpected swansong ahead of their hiatus announcement.

Just three days after headlining London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town, Modern Baseball unexpectedly announced their indefinite hiatus, spurred on by their increasingly troublesome battle with mental health. It’s an issue that has underpinned their career to date, never more evident than in the lack of co-vocalist and guitarist Brendan Lukens on their most recent, and potentially final UK run.

Lukens, who draws much of his lyrical inspiration from his bipolar disorder, was too unwell to travel. His role in the band was instead temporarily succeeded by an enthusiastic throng of guest vocalists – from friends of the band to unsuspecting audience members. “Who knows the words to this song,” Jacob Ewald asked. Judging by their fans jubilant reaction throughout the entire set, the question was redundant; everyone in the room knew every line.

What could have easily overshadowed their performance – few bands could sustain a tour without such a major component – instead became an opportunity for celebration. Looking back following their subsequent announcement, it was undoubtedly a bittersweet one. Throw in some cynical reading between the lines, it may have even allowed for the remainder of the band, now openly tired of Modern Baseball, a much needed excuse to hand the work over. From an audience point of view though, it worked.

Modern Baseball have, over time, afforded themselves some much needed wiggle room. Never shying away from their battles with poor mental health – their most recent LP Holy Ghost is built around Lukens’ bipolar disorder and Ewald’s grief – only a hypocrite would allow themselves to be frustrated by the real life effects of those struggles on their recent tour. Far from it, the reaction was immeasurably supportive. In a seeming ode to Lukens, their wayward comrade, the set closed with a cover of The Killers’ When You Were Young – a band whom the co-vocalist credits as a major inspiration.

It may not have been the tightest of shows; a risk all bands face when relying on friends and fans new to performing the material, but for a band who were then silently battling with the thought that soon it would all be over, Modern Baseball crafted a fitting swansong that pushed their relatability firmly to the forefront.

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