Live Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 23rd October 2018

By on Thursday, 25th October 2018 at 2:00 pm

Nine years ago, a lifetime ago, Brighton’s FatCat Records sponsored a tour of their then-shining stars from their roster. While the top of the bill starred two bands with more established careers, the opening band was riding high on a wave of hype here in America. The oddly and improbably named We Were Promised Jetpacks were greeted by raucous cheers from our local college students. Sadly, my review of the night for American blog PopWreckoning has been lost to the ether; you’ll have to read about it in this Washington Post Express article instead. No matter: How could I forget the raw energy of the band’s performance, bolstered by frontman Adam Thompson’s shouty, emphatic vocals? I hadn’t seen the band live since 2011, and I’m happy to report following their show at 9:30 Club on Tuesday that the Glasgow via Edinburgh rockers haven’t lost their edge or their penchant for drawing out anticipation through noodley post-rock instrumentals.

Even after four studio albums and numerous world tours, it appears the vocal fan approval continues to be overwhelming to a band as humble as they are. As if time had stood still, Thompson appeared as uncomfortable as he did in 2009, fending off the loud cheering for their songs with self-deprecating barbs and bashful grins. We Were Promised Jetpacks started and remains a band of childhood friends, blood brothers who have remained united following guitarist Michael Palmer’s diagnosis and successful fight against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In a time when bands don’t have much longevity, a band who’s been around for 15 years and still enjoy being around each other is a satisfying exception from the norm.

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There’s been talk that ‘The More I Sleep The Less I Dream’, their first album for Big Scary Monsters released last month, is a bit more polished than what we’re used to from them. I don’t see this as a negative but rather an expected evolution over a decade of making music together. Palmer has said of the LP, “The album is so much about us going back to our basics and relying on our instincts. There’s a range of songs that span everything we do as a band, and we’re the connection between them. It feels like this album is us.”

Going off that, if this new album is a representation of We Were Promised Jetpacks now, then their set list Tuesday night that mixed up the four chapters of their story far could be read as a kind of greatest hits. The visceral rawness of ‘baby’ Jetpacks on ‘It’s Thunder and Lightning’ and ‘Ships With Holes Will Sink’ set against the periods of instrumental goodness of ‘Sore Thumb’ and sheer power of ‘Human Error’ prove what this band is capable of. This is a band who rely on their collective fire power and ability to build a wall of sound, not flashy gimmicks. For punters, watching them is truly mesmerising. When they brought out ‘Keeping Warm’, their post-rock nod to the growing pains of adolescence, someone in the audience shouted, “do it for Scott [Hutchison]!” It was a emotional moment.

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There seemed two glaring omissions from the setlist: my favourites ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ (check out this 2009 Bands to Watch!) and ‘Quiet Little Voices’, with all their enjoyable hooting and hollering, were nowhere to be found. Famously known to refuse to do encores, the band ended with ‘Repeating Patterns’ from the new album and all of us fans dancing something I can only describe as a stuttering discotheque boogie. Instead of feeling cheated, I walked into the cold Washington night with a smile on my face and the comfort that we’ll have this Scottish band and their music for a good while longer. To read any of our past coverage on We Were Promised Jetpacks, check out the articles through here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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