Review: Waterparks – FANDOM: Live In The UK
Before pushing ‘play’ on FANDOM: Live In The UK, here is some important (and, frankly, impressive) context: after filming a gig at the O2 Institute Birmingham in January 2020, Waterparks frontman Awsten Knight and band photographer / videographer Jawn Rocha spent six long months editing the footage that now makes up the band’s concert movie. And it really, really shows.
A longtime fan of the format, Awsten grew up watching live DVDs by the likes of My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday, wondering how he could not only match the concept with his own band, but crucially further the idea. “I wanted it to be like an IMAX Waterparks show but in an alternate universe,” he teased in a statement ahead of release, “and so every song is warped out and stylised to look how it feels to me while we’re performing.”
This is immediately clear from FANDOM: Live In The UK’s opening moments. Trippy, abstract imagery and mood-enhancing sounds set the tone right from the off, as Waterparks hit the O2 Institute stage and tear through an impeccably-paced opening run of Cherry Red, Watch What Happens Next and Blonde. In a world of short attention spans you don’t want to look away for a second for fear of missing minute VFX touches or fun Easter eggs, making this a genuine visual feast. That being said, no amount of editing can filter Awsten’s, um, unique stage chatter (“If you are on the ground then you’re dead to me!” he yells at the crowd during Dream Boy), and there’s the added bonus of hearing him pronounce “Birming-ham” in that endearingly and overly-American way throughout.
And, in fact, that is probably the best part about FANDOM: Live In The UK: it strikes the perfect balance between human touches and boundary-pushing editing. The mellow High Definition and acoustic 21 Questions show Waterparks at their most emotionally raw, while the fired-up War Crimes (featuring a cameo from support artist De’Wayne) and aggro closer Turbulent boast the band’s sky-scraping ambitions.
What is perhaps most exciting of all, though, is that this is still really just the beginning. Next year – COVID-19 allowing, of course – Waterparks will return to the UK to perform at the biggest venues of their career, including a stop at London’s iconic 5,000-capacity O2 Academy Brixton. Armed with ace 2020 single Lowkey As Hell (and maybe even more new music by then?), you wouldn’t bet against them raising the bar even higher. Until then, FANDOM: Live In The UK displays the trio at their creative, dynamic peak.
FANDOM: Live In The UK is out now digitally; physical copies are due out on December 18 via Hopeless Records
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