Live Review: Marianas Trench at Koko, London

Editor's Review
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Canadian pop punk band Marianas Trench blew the crowd away at their electrifying Koko gig. Having formed in Vancouver in 2001 and having released their fourth studio album Astoria in 2015 the set list was an odyssey through time, showcasing MT’s sound from their humble beginnings to the present day. Known for their tracks which encapsulate soaring guitar riffs with cheeky lyrics the band, formed of Josh Ramsay, Matt Webb, Mike Ayley and Ian Casselman, picked the cream of their bountiful crop of songs and performed them with boundless energy.

The set began with the grand Astoria. The dramatic drum rolls, atmospheric keys and heavy guitar riff opener had the whole crowd’s undivided attention. As Ramsay’s vocals kicked in, rugged and soaring, his presence on the stage was made even more imposing by the cloak obscuring his face. This seven minute long track is undoubtedly epic and is comprised of multiple interlinking parts which are woven together seamlessly by Ramsay’s unique vocals. As the beat dropped the cloak was thrown to the ground and Ramsay revealed his face to the roaring crowd. Every person in that room was chanting “whatever doesn’t make me stronger kills me” back at Ramsay until the gentle keys outro brought the most incredible opener to a close.

The silence didn’t last long as Yesterday’s thumping drums kicked in. Another track from Astoria, it’s incredibly upbeat and combines trumpet flares with MT’s signature guitars and with lyrics like “If it’s a party let’s dance” it would have been rude not to! Up next was the even catchier Celebrity Status from Masterpiece Theatre. Ramsay takes his vocals up a notch with the fast paced verses, slowing down for the hook and bringing them back up to speed again for the guitar-heavy chorus. The guitar breakdown at the end is brill and reminiscent of classic Fall Out Boy.

Burning Up was up next with its great poppy intro of twangy guitars and retro-sounding keys. Penned by Ramsay for Astoria (the album he wrote following a painful break-up) it’s incredible he’s created a track so tongue-in-cheek and bubbly from a subject so heart-wrenchingly sad. Lyrics such as “Don’t say I don’t still make you blush” lend the track a light-hearted spin and coupled with the Queen-esque harmonies and falsettos make this one an undoubted stand-out.

All To Myself is a great shouty track from Masterpiece Theatre to jump around to. This was swiftly followed by a change of pace with Here’s To The Zeros. Marianas Trench is a band with an ever-evolving sound and this is a piece of polished pop which is definitely on my guilty pleasure list. It’s quite hilarious that a super-cool-looking band with tattoos, bare chests and mohawks sing such a poppy track which references Disney in the lyrics but MT are full of surprises. The track contains the lyrics “They say where’s the next hit baby? God how could I top Call Me Maybe?” which is a cheeky reference to that most viral of songs which was penned by Ramsay himself.

The tone became more serious for One Love, a moving post break up track from Astoria which touches on the themes of loss and regret. The layered production with strings brings the song an intensity that underscored the lyrics even more. As Ramsay poured his heart out the lights swang towards the audience in a blaze of blinding white as everyone swayed along, a true ‘lighters in the air’ moment.

Following that moving interlude, the pace was picked up again with This Means War. All soaring vocals and addictive hooks, the whole crowd was bobbing along. We visited 2011 album Ever After next with Desperate Measures, Fallout and Stutter. Desperate Measures is all anthemic lyrics and jump up and down chorus. Fallout is heady with its spine tingling rocky chorus and verses where Ramsay lets us into the darkest recesses of his heart with lyrics such as “I’m on the ledge while you’re so god damn polite and composed.” Stutter is clap-along and pop-tinged, the perfect track to lead us into Pop 101. Pop 101 is an incredibly clever light-hearted jab at the mainstream music industry and the generic diabetes-inducing sugary sweet pop it churns out. It’s worth a listen just to hear Josh’s name sang in the style of Jason Derulo right at the end.

Following all the jumping around the crowd needed a break and this came in the form of newest single Who Do You Love. It’s a touching track which aims to spread love far and wide and the impressive drums lend it epic proportions. Another track from Astoria, While Were Young, continued on the theme of grand production and anthemic choruses. The deafening guitar riffs shook every wall and the intense keys and electronic elements made this a stand-out of the whole night as everyone in the crowd obliged as Ramsay sang “so sing it back if you’re with me, I wanna hear how your heart speaks.”

Then it was time for another punky belter with Cross My Heart, a fave of mine from Masterpiece Theatre, which is all clap-along verses and shouty vocals. Then we were treated to some more polished pop with Haven’t Had Enough and everyone boogied along as the twangy guitars were back with a vengeance.

Every gig has to come to a close and what more fitting song to do the honours than Astoria outro End Of An Era. Another seven minute soundtrack-worthy masterpiece, the atmosphere it creates is haunting with the angelic harmonies, choppy violins and layered vocals. Simultaneously delicate and spine-tingling it’s a larger-than-life extravaganza when heard in a live setting and the guitar solos at the end are incredible when coupled with the orchestral strings. The closing lyrics “Always will love you still, but Astoria must end” couldn’t be a more perfect goodbye to one of the most exhilarating gigs I’ve been to.

Ramsay noted part way through the set that this was the first time they’d played in London in a whopping ten years. As a new fan I’m sincerely hoping they don’t make me wait a decade to experience another of their incredible shows. I spoke to Ramsay briefly backstage after the show, discussing what a brilliant set list they’d compiled and he said that Astoria and End Of An Era (the first and last tracks) served perfectly as “bookends” as the history of the band played out in between. The band was due to play Brighton next before crossing the channel for Paris and beyond. I wished them good luck and, with a beer from their rider and band tee in hand, returned to Koko to enjoy the post-show club night. You Canadians sure know how to rock and London will welcome you back with open arms!

Find out more about Marianas Trench here and have a watch of the jokes video for Pop 101 below. Still a better pop song than all the pop songs it satirises!

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