Live review: Sleeping With Sirens at O2 Ritz Manchester
The last time post-hardcore outfit Sleeping With Sirens toured the UK, back in 2019, there was a Manchester-shaped hole in their list of dates. On their first visit to the city since 2016, the audience was treated to a well-curated setlist of both old favourites and new bangers, all delivered with the band’s trademark polished execution.
First to open were London/LA act Charming Liars, and they were quick to win over an increasingly packed room. Charismatic frontman Kiliyan Maguire expertly walked the fine line between confidence and arrogance, thankfully on the right side, with the result being an engaging opening set that got the crowd moving. With some groovy alt indie bangers such as ‘The Haunting’ and ‘When Did We?’ allowing Maguire’s vocals to really shine, they ticked all the boxes for a good support act – and showed real promise for when they return to Manchester in October for their own headline gig, tickets for which can be found on their website here.
A short break later, and next to take to the stage were the frankly show-stealing Static Dress. Beginning their set at a breakneck pace, and maintaining this intensity for the next half-an-hour, vocalist Olli Appleyard managed to set into motion four mosh pits within the first 10 minutes of their set, and encouraged no fewer than six crowd surfers.
Aside from the blisteringly good music, a highlight for me was trying to figure out how best to describe the mask worn by guitarist Contrast, which would have made a sensational look for lockdown supermarket trips. On the bus home, my friend and I settled on a definition somewhere between Batman/gimp suit/Transformer, an enigmatic combination appropriate for an equally enigmatic band. Finishing with the excellent ‘clean’, the bar was set insanely high for the headliners.
Sleeping With Sirens followed after a playlist consisting solely of ABBA tunes – a tonal shift, definitely, but one that somehow worked. Emerging to screams that demonstrated that lead singer Kellin Quinn’s emo icon status has not diminished since the band’s breakout over a decade ago, the group launched into an energetic rendition of ‘Break Me Down’.
Taken from 2019’s offering How It Feels to Be Lost, it was this album which featured most heavily in the night’s setlist. At first a surprising decision given the recent 2022 release of Complete Collapse, it became quickly apparent that each track of this set had perhaps been chosen with high energy in mind, evidenced by the band jumping straight into fan favourite ‘Kick Me’ immediately after the opening track.
Following a stream of fast-paced numbers, including the fantastic ‘Do It Now Remember It Later’ from breakout album Let’s Cheers to This and a newer offering in the form of ‘Crosses’ from Complete Collapse, Quinn brought the crowd together to give a genuinely touching speech about the importance of unity and mental health, before dedicating the next song ‘Better Off Dead’ to any struggling fans in the audience. It was a moment that I can imagine would have resonated with many fans present.
A personal highlight of the night came in the shape of an acoustic interlude consisting of two tracks from the If You Were a Movie, This Would Be Your Soundtrack EP, of which I have fond memories from its release all the way back in 2012. It was a welcome change of pace to hear these songs, and gave the crowd – who seemed to know every word – the chance to slow down and sing along with Quinn.
Next up were a couple more tracks from the band’s newest album, and then one from their debut, ‘If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn,’ to close off the main set. Throughout the whole show there were ample opportunities taken by Quinn to demonstrate his vocal talents. Though the cynic in me wants to call it showboating, he really was infuriatingly just that good, hitting a whistle note at the end of this last track that was particularly impressive.
Of course, there was only one song which could feasibly be the band’s encore track, and the opening bars of emo classic ‘If You Can’t Hang’ had the audience in one final frenzy. Overall, Sleeping With Sirens’ polished return to Manchester was worth the wait, accompanied by fantastic support acts who are ones to look out for.
You can stream Sleeping With Sirens’ latest album, Complete Collapse, below.