American Football took 17 years to write and record a follow-up to their first album. I can still remember myself as a beardless kid when the self-titled ‘American Football’ came out of the blue and I gave it a go for the first time. Seventeen years feel like a lifetime when you transit the obscurity and oddities of teenage. When nothing is really in place and everything is moving at a fast pace. When you don’t have the guts to care enough, but still, you have all the time in the world to make mistakes, worry and blame yourself. Mike Kinsella has been my silent friend for years. He doesn’t know, but that LP1 messed my life enough to find myself beating on, “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.
I took the liberty of quoting the last haunting lines of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. It might not mean a thing to you, but I just feel this is the only way I have to give voice to my feelings right at the end of one of the most beautiful nights of live music I have ever been to. Shepherds Bush is on fire. People are staring – dreamy eyes – at four grown-ups on stage who are doing what they love the most. It’s all sweet, smooth and soft. “So let’s just pretend / Everything and / Anything between you and me / Was never meant” brings down the curtain on ‘Never Meant’, the desperate anthem that more than any other has marked several generations of indie/emo kids.
The O2 Shepherds Bush Empire looks like the perfect location for a theatrical experience like American Football are supposed to be. The pre-show flows smoothly. Into It. Over It.’s Evan is touring with Kinsella for this European leg and gets on stage with his acoustic guitar. He’s brilliant as usual, and he plays more or less the same set he had played at St Stephen’s Church two night before, adding a stunning version of ‘Portland, OR’ (from his album ‘Twelve Towns’), requested from the crowd.
Mike and Nate Kinsella, Steve Lamos and Steve Holmes get on stage timely, right after 21:00. Evan Weiss is American Football’s guest as a bassist. The lights are all for them, and I can feel goosebumps when the guitar on ‘Where Are We Now?’ kicks off. It’s all like a dream, in my mind, to be just a few meters far from such an influential band. There’s the right crowd too, and I realise it when I turn back to look at all that nostalgia and at the scars of a lost teenage. There’s a bunch of youngsters too, and that makes me think once more of the ageless power of a band who became iconic with a batch of songs only.
The first part of the night is all about the recent LP2, played in its entirety: ‘Give Me The Gun’, ‘Born To Lose’, ‘I Need a Drink (or Two, or Three)’ are amongst the most remarkable moments live, besides the beautifully crafted ‘Home Is Where The Haunt Is’. A number that gives to the whole album that halo of a conceptual journey through adulthood and all the intricacies this brings to a human mind.
The band gets back on stage following a short break. Kinsella interacts with the audience, then the encore is all about LP1. ‘The One With The Tambourine’, ‘Stay Home’, ‘Honestly?’ and ‘For Sure’ turn a new light of excitement on. Drummer Steve Lamos plays his trumpet in between each song. American Football get emotional, and so does the crowd. The finale is a triumphal march. ‘I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional’ and ‘The Summer Ends’ are the emotional breakdown right before ‘Never Meant’, where everything began.
When it all ends, I keep staring at the stage, my heart full of memories and that sensation of being in the middle of a storm. There’s no wind or rain, only guitar delays, a soft voice, and tough lyrics. I can’t help it but close my eyes and beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past…