Listener – The Prince Albert – 4th March 2018

Photo by Ben Walker

Harsh poetic lyricism combined with an intense punk-rock sound, the Arkansas founded four-piece, Listener, bring their brutal sound to the Brighton shores for the first time in five years. This sell out show brings forth a great deal of emotion and passion from start to finish and is the kind of show which you can see means something incredibly individual to each attendee. Tears, sweat and outbursts of pure emotion can be found in abundance at The Prince Albert this evening and one thing is made perfectly clear: Listener are a band who you need to get on board with.

Spoken word is always an incredibly hit and miss genre, especially in a live environment where the poetics can either be too blunt to create and form mysticism, or so abstract that the meaning can be completely missed. However, tonight’s opener Levi The Poet has found the perfect combination of the two. Accompanied by an ongoing projected narrative on the stage’s back wall, Levi stands with the lone microphone in hand and delivers the most intense of performances I have seen in a while. There is a definite glint in his eye as he spews his lyrics with great raw emotion. The cracks in his vocals only adding to the harsh power of each word. Not only that, but he is a great showman and dominates the entirety of the stage whilst remaining incredibly humble during his interactions with the audience, a real gentleman who I have nothing but the upmost respect for.

Before Listener even play a note, the four-piece can be seen on stage mumbling to one another about their excitement for the show as they go in for their pre-show ritual chant in front of the crowd. This was a small touch, but definitely something that you see very rarely and it really added a great deal of personality and community to the entire show. You can hear vocalist Dan Smith say to his fellow bandmates that he is nervous, to which one member of the audience humorously states, “No pressure, I’ve only waited five years for this!”, the reaction from the band is met with a great deal of laughter and those nerves quickly turn back to excitement as the band all attack their instruments and a series of intense backlights flash in beautiful unison.

The sheer size of Listener’s sound is unpacked onto the smaller venue and is truly something awe inspiring. In a smaller venue such as this, the room quickly heats up to the point where it becomes more of an oven than a place for live music. As the brutal riffs from the guitars blast forth, the patterns from drummer Kris Rochelle become all the more mesmerising, his passion behind each beat is visible from a mile away and this eagerness really adds a great deal of sharpness to each track. There is no doubt this is what these guys were put on this earth to do, Dan’s vocals more than live up to their recorded counterparts, providing such a fervent emotional journey that you can see many don’t know whether to cry or smash up the nearest breakable object! The delivery of each word is done so in a manner that it truly does put you in the forefront of the narrative in the most intimidating (and fantastic) of ways.

The continued conversing between the room and the band pursues throughout the set and definitely generates a great deal of comfort throughout the show. Another interesting aspect to note is the simple variety of characters in attendance, the most hardcore of punks can be seen mingling with literary scholars and aspiring poets, all sharing the passion of enjoying Listener’s well crafted sound.

To be able to remember such a long narrative of complex lyricism is a challenge for any artist, but especially to be able to deliver them with such heartfelt emotion time after time is even more admirable. Listener are a band who have definitely found their niche and are continuing to perfect their art to reach its fullest potential. Tonight has been a phenomenal show from both Levi The Poet and the Listener lads and, like so many here, I pray that this isn’t Listener’s last time in the UK for such a long period again as this is the kind of band which, no matter how many times you see them, you could never truly get sick of.

Ben Walker