The Blackout at O2 Forum Kentish Town, 24/02/2024

The kings of the Welsh post-hardcore scene make an emotional return to the capital

Just a few songs into their first London show in nine years, The Blackout’s mulleted vocalist Sean Smith makes a heartfelt confession to the packed-out room before him.

“Honestly, when we announced these shows we didn’t even think anyone would remember the name The Blackout. Now here you are, spending your Saturday night with us.”

Rising to prominence in the late noughties as part of a flourishing Welsh alternative scene, it’s been almost a decade since the Merthyr Tydfil noisemakers embarked on their emotional farewell tour. Homegrown darlings of the British post-hardcore scene, the news of their reunion at the tail end of 2022 brought a swell of love, excitement, and nostalgia to a generation of alternative music fans raised on their gargantuan choruses, dual vocal brilliance, and penchant for party starting.

Following a triumphant reunion at 2023’s Download Festival, their return is marked with a UK headline tour drawing to a close this evening in London. A banner boldly proclaiming ‘F*ck The Blackout’ hung behind the stage and a venue filled with people ready to relive the glory days of their teenhood, as dynamic vocalist duo Sean Smith and Gavin Butler charge into anthemic opener ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ – the room erupts. 

Unafraid to bask in nostalgia, what sets The Blackout’s comeback aside from the scene’s current slew of reunion tours is that despite the open-armed welcome back onto UK stages – there’s no effort to drum up hype. Admitting that new material isn’t currently on the cards, the sole purpose of tonight is to celebrate the history of a band still beloved by many, a sentiment that seems to come as a surprise to the six men onstage. Visibly stunned by the fact that people actuallyremember these songs, let alone still want to hear them, even when testing the crowd with deep-cuts such as 2007 slow-burner ‘Life & Death in Space’ – the response is deafening.

Delivering a career-spanning set, 2009 album The Best in Town and its 2011 follow-up Hope are the central focus of the evening. From raucous singalong hit ‘Children of the Night’ to blistering riff-heavy cut ‘The Devil Inside’ – the latter seeing Smith launch himself onto the first few rows of the crowd – each moment of the set is delivered with a passion and intensity that radiates how much this means to them. A feeling fittingly captured in their poignant performance of ‘Hope (Scream It Out Loud)’, a misfit anthem of perseverance and staying true to yourself, what becomes clear is that despite the assembly of fans still screaming their name, The Blackout have never been a cool band – but that’s not what this is about. 

For many of the bodies in the room, The Blackout’s shows have always been an opportunity to escape. A refuge from the drudgery and misery that so-often occupy our daily lives, the six Welshmen have long-championed live music as a catalyst for unity, and that spirit radiates through their triumphant comeback set. A decade on, community is still the beating heart of The Blackout, and as the room reverberates with over two-thousand voices screaming the closing notes of anthemic genre-defining hit ‘Save Ourselves (The Warning)’ – it seems the world needs bands like them now more than ever.

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