How long have we been in a pandemic? Long enough for Aussie alt-pop hotties 5 Seconds of Summer to release an album, announce a tour for it, indefinitely push it back, have two of their members release solo projects, record a whole new album and resume touring that instead. Phew, all in a day’s work.
This tour marks the group’s proper return to arenas – pre-pandemic they played to theatres in support of 2018 comeback record ‘Youngblood’, hailing a new, more mature direction that was well received, but needed breaking in. They did exactly that on follow up ‘CALM’.
Cutting their teeth supporting pop titans One Direction, 5SOS have always written tunes built for arenas, and it’s clear that’s where they’re meant to be. Opener ‘No Shame’ hits hard, and runs into a buffet of big singles and album cuts – ‘Easier’, ‘More’, ‘Want You Back’ and debut EP favourite ‘Disconnected’.
Slicker than ever, the boys slide between bangers, barely coming up for air between tracks, merging eras and morphing sounds so there’s rarely a lull in the 90 minute set.
Perhaps it’s because they’re trying to cram in as many hits as possible (there’s bloody loads), or just because they’re older now, but the days of clowning around on stage seem to be long gone. Where in their early years, the space between songs was filled with Blink-182-style banter, it’s been replaced by meaningful speeches and reminiscing on those exact early days.
During frontman Luke’s speech, he talks about the first time they played in London a decade ago – they’ve been looking back on their beginnings a lot lately, releasing 10th anniversary tune ‘2011’ last year to commemorate. Guitarist Michael asks who was there at the last 5SOS Wembley show, when his hair caught fire and they were touring their second album. He’s met with screams aplenty and gives a “fucking hell” in disbelief.
If there’s one thing 5SOS have never lost, it’s the fan loyalty. It’s apparent from the word go that the boys would not have to work hard to get a reaction tonight. Luke could’ve stayed off the mic all night and they’d have filled in the silence.
Still, the fun of those early shows isn’t all gone, neither is the pop punk love. “Y’all mind if we do 15 minutes of pop punk?” Michael announces before ripping through ‘2011’, ‘Castaway’ from ‘Sounds Good Feels Good’, and ending up on debut single ‘She Looks So Perfect’, which they’ll ceremoniously perform until the end of their days (much like Miley Cyrus does ‘Party In The USA’). There’s power in owning your early material, especially when it was initially shunned for not being ‘real’ enough.
Never fully shedding the ‘boyband’ skin, they still garner screams any pop act would be envious of, but their live show is the best it’s ever been. Ten years of performing together – and probably a welcome break from it during the pandemic – has done its job.
As their catalogue plays out through the evening, the enormity of their sound makes sense. Throughout the years, they’ve been influenced by a variety of huge hitters – the pop punk angst of Green Day and Blink 182, the synth driven 80s sound of The 1975, the belting pop melodies of One Direction. As they prepare to release their fifth full-length, the tracks take a turn into wide open choruses and the kind of lighters-in-the-air ‘woah’ing that Coldplay are good at. After two years of being locked up, the new material (‘Complete Mess’, ‘Take My Hand’ and unreleased ‘Easy For You To Say’) sounds made for live shows, and is met with as much enthusiasm as the big smashes they’re sandwiched between.
To call a gig a triumph can be a bit cliche, but what else are you meant to call a roaring return to Wembley by a group who’ve relentlessly pushed on past music snobs and moved way on from the skinny-jeaned, lip-ringed, hair-bleached days of their last visit? 5 Seconds of Summer sound like they’re in it for the long haul, and they’ll keep selling out arenas, but it shouldn’t just be because of fan devotion, rather the strength of this live show.