Real Friends @ King Tut's, Glasgow, 23 Oct
Real Friends shows rarely disappoint, and on their return to Glasgow the Illinois lot smash out a stellar collection of songs in a packed-to-the-brim King Tut's
A sold out show at King Tut's means walking up the famous stairs to find around 30 people crammed around the corner by the bar unable to see the stage but for a small TV screen above the beer taps. Luckily the mood around the venue is good, even if the layout isn’t.
Yet, it shouldn't be a surprise to find a Real Friends show sold out – the five-piece are much-loved mainstays within the pop-punk sphere. Their last album, 2018’s Composure, was easily their best release to date, with brutally honest, open discussions on mental health struggles amid some of the finest hooks they’ve ever penned.
Grayscale are first up, and seem less a support act and more a co-headline. Having recently released their sophomore record Nella Vita, much of the setlist is littered with shiny new tracks. In Violet, arguably one of that record’s strongest moments, translates wonderfully to a live setting, with Collin Walsh’s vocals impeccably strong on long-held highs.
There’s a noticeable difference between the electronic-clad new material and the more raucous older cuts, but the poppier tones never feels out of place with the crashing, concluding hits like Fever Dream and Atlantic. Unfortunately, the unbalanced mixing detracts from an otherwise stellar performance, as the drums sit way too high, leaving the guitar-led moments diminished and hard to pick out.
Real Friends are well-known for their rather intense live shows – and opener Get By sets the blood pumping almost immediately. Dan Lambton parades around the stage as a sea of arms reach across the barrier like the rising dead. Again, he’s another frontman whose vocal potency on record is matched live, particularly on earlier tracks where coarse vocals were order of the day.
Speaking of former numbers, the set is packed full of them. Emphatic songs from Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing like the title track and I Don’t Love You Anymore interject the glossier, hook-driven Composure moments, sending the more nostalgic fans into mayhem. And while the mix may have been an issue for the previous band, everything is immaculate for Real Friends, who are so tight-knit, they sound almost as good as on record.
Stripped back singalongs of Sixteen and I’ve Given Up On You are up there with the best moments of the night, as phones come out, flashlights light up the room and out of tune voices try to match the passion of Lambton’s bittersweet melodies. Afterwards, Lambton calls for crowd surfers to “get up here!”, but the savvy crowd are well aware of the venue's pretty strict rules, and take no risks – resulting in Lambton seemingly growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of bodies piling on top of each other as their set progresses. Yet, by the end, the Tut's staff seem to say “fuck it” and let everybody go wild, lobbing bodies like balls at a coconut shy on the infectious concluder, From the Outside – ending the night on an almighty bang.