Opening nights are important to touring bands. They help set the tone for the shows to follow, as well as give bands the knowledge of what works and what they can improve on. With all that said, it’s to the surprise of literally no one that Bullet for My Valentine absolutely smash it on their opening night. The crowd queueing around the next street over to get into the Corn Exchange are visibly excited to see BFMV play Cambridge for the first time in 17 years, with the help of the legendary Atreyu and one of the rising stars in modern metal – Jinjer. It’s safe to say that from the outside looking in, it’s an incredibly STACKED lineup and is definitely one to remember.
Atreyu are first up to play to the already-packed room tonight, and they take to the stage with the all-too-familiar sound of Sandstorm by Darude, letting its meme-infused melody blow through the speakers, leading the crowd to ‘duh-duh-duh-duh-duh’ along. When the band comes on, they go straight into a beautiful 4-part harmony with their opener Strange Powers of Prophecy from their latest record Baptize, before annihilating straight into Becoming the Bull.
Brandon Saller gets the crowd hyped up by introducing them to “the best night of your fucking life”, and then later encourages everyone to mosh to their latest single Drowning. “Get your asses back in that circle pit” he demands, and the crowd dutifully do as they’ve been told. The new single goes down a treat with the audience, who have no issue with bouncing along and singing the lyrics back to the group; at the end getting the thumbs-up approval from bassist Marc McKnight.
Before their final track Blow, the band takes a moment to show off their comedic side, by introducing a… different type of song. “Do you remember when we were walking through Trinity College a few years ago” McKnight ‘recalls’ to Saller, “The sun was setting, and you sang those words to me?”. Saller laughs to himself before singing what they were to the crowd – “I wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody”, as they go into a verse and a half of the 80s classic. When they cut it short, the crowd mockingly boo them, to which Brandon responds with “What?? You’re gonna boo Whitney Houston? You’re gonna speak ill of the dead?!” with a joking smile.
As the last chord of their set rings out, the band stands at the edge of the stage and faces their adoring fans. Brandon blows kisses to the crowd, and blows one up to the side balcony, to which a fan catches and pockets it. The fan blows a kiss back to Saller, which he then catches and pockets too, before coming offstage. The level of love they have for their fans is a nice quality to a brutal-sounding group and one that I couldn’t help but comment on! Their performance has well and truly riled everyone up and got them feeling good at the same time – all in all, a truly entertaining set.
The stage lights go off yet again ready for Jinjer, the second band of the night, and you can hardly see a thing onstage. But not for long – as frontwoman Tatiana Shmailyuk comes out in a body suit that, in the dark, illuminates in a bright neon green colour with a hypnotising pattern, as well as her face makeup turning her skin completely purple, albeit her green eyebrows. Her look perfectly acts as a beacon of light to shadow their music’s dark overtones.
“This next song is dedicated to our home country Ukraine” Tatiana says, introducing Home Back, which gets plenty of cheers and applause from the crowd. And before you know it, the stage is immediately lit up in blue and yellow lights, Ukraine’s colours, as they power through the song, with a lot of voices in the room singing “I came back home so I want my home back” to them near the end. It serves as a nice touch in tribute to the traumatic past year that their people have faced with the invasion from Russia.
The quartet are generally quite quiet and reserved between songs and don’t really speak much, instead, they choose to let the music speak for them. And half of the time, the mosh pits start without the band even needing to ask/hint for it – showing that the group already have that high of an influence on the Cambridge crowd. By the time their set comes to an end, with their outro Call Me a Symbol serving as an epic goodbye, the crowd roars, and the neon frontwoman walks offstage. The stage gets swarmed with road crew, who are now preparing for the main event. The new rotatable lighting rigs are ready, the many Peavey amps are all cranked up, and the stage is set. All the while, the crowd entertains themselves with stadium-like singalongs to Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit, Last Resort by Papa Roach, and Chop Suey! by System of a Down, to name just 3.
Then, before you know it, on comes Bullet. Cutting the shit and going straight into the riffs, they open their set with new track Knives, from their latest self-titled album, and the party really gets started. Frontman Matt Tuck takes a minute after Over It to tell the crowd that they were “all a little bit under the weather, a bit fluey” after they returned from their Europe leg less than 24 hours earlier. And yet, even though the Welsh group may say they’re sick, they certainly don’t seem it – Jason absolutely killed it on the drums that, honestly, it was hard to keep my eyes off of him, bassist Jamie was headbanging and screaming perfectly, and Padge was in his element, shredding away and soaking up the admiration as he did so.
They then introduce Hearts Burst into Fire, “the most requested song by you guys” for the tour, and everyone in the room sings back the lyrics to Tuck and co. I looked around the crowd during the song’s performance, and I saw a few people arm in arm with their mates singing along, tears starting to form in their eyes – it really displayed just how special this song was to everyone here and it was definitely the right decision to include it on the setlist.
Bullet’s mosh pits were hardcore – I remember looking over to the ‘big one’ on my right whenever one formed and seeing various scenes, including a crowd surfer falling into the pit, getting up, and then immediately starting to mosh as if nothing happened, as well as a guy in an Electric Callboy shirt (because of course it was) doing a somersault in the circle pit right before the walls closed in on him. And, admittedly for me, it was all too tempting to the point where I had to get in the pit a couple of times, including during the anthemic The Last Fight!
A special moment and a definite highlight of the night was when Matt took centre stage as he started a solo version of Tears Don’t Fall, with nothing but his voice, his guitar, and a single spotlight. Hearing a fully-capped venue sing the chorus in this way literally gave me goosebumps for about 5 straight minutes. And after that first chorus was sung, the band slowly crept back onstage, to then start from the top; the cheering when the song began was deafening and the singing was just as loud the second time around.
When all was said and done, and the staff start clearing up the mess of discarded beer cups, it’s impossible to ignore the distant chants of “Bullet! Bullet!” still reverberating across the venue and into the street. Their return to Cambridge has resonated well with everyone, and hopefully, this is not the last time we see them here. For an opening night, it really doesn’t get much better than that.
Review – Joe Richardson
All live shots – Rob Wilkins
Remaining tour dates:
3rd MAR – O2 City Hall, Newcastle
4th MAR – Barrowland, Glasgow
6th MAR – O2 Academy, Leeds
7th MAR – O2 Academy, Birmingham
8th MAR – O2 Guildhall, Southampton
10th MAR – Arena, Swansea
11th MAR – Roundhouse, London
Ticket information, here.