The Sylvee was the place to be on this Wednesday night. The line to get into the venue was the length of a football field and wrapped around the corner and down East Washington Ave. Nothing More was the focal point. The original billing already had Atreyu and Eva Under Fire as support. The co-headliner Asking Alexandria had to cancel the rest of the tour over medical issues. To most in attendance, it didn’t matter as they were there to see the firey foursome headline their 2022 US tour in support of their yet-to-be-released or titled album.
The Sylvee is a gem of a venue. The relatively new building was built to maximize the audience’s experience. As you walk in through the security checkpoint you are right by the merchandise booths that are built into the wall. In that area, Nothing More had an array of very cool shirts. Arguably the best thing for sale were the used drum heads signed by the band. They had quite a few of them with different scribbles on them. After stocking up on goodies you turn around and the full-service bar runs the entire length of the back wall. The main floor is actually a sub-level area. You have to walk down a small set of stairs and onto the floor. The stage runs the entire length of the venue. It is a roomy performance space. That space will have every single inch of it used up.
Between foot-tall lighting strips lining the front of the stage guitarist Mark Vallelunga appears in front of his microphone and stands. Across the stage, on the right bassist, Daniel Oliver walks out waving to the crowd. Ben Anderson was perched behind his drum kit which was just off-center. The stage lights began lifting into a red haze. The backdrop lit up revealing a large banner with “Nothing More” in an old English-type text stretched across the stage. The band kicked into “Turn It Up Like”. This was the lead single off of their upcoming release. Jonny Hawkins was in fine form from the beginning. With spastic movements and pure energy dripping from his pores, he gave the fire to get the room to bounce around. He even used his “Scorpion Tail” keyboard and drum kit then rode and moved it around through the duration of the song. While Hawkins was up there, Vallelunga provided a very tasty and slick guitar solo while leaning into his foot stand. The intense grins were only elevating the impact of his playing. They couldn’t have had a more impressive kick-off to a show.
The setlist was an amalgamation of butt-kickings that were performed at a rapid pace. More heartening than one could have ever expected as well. It was a fantastic way to maintain that adrenaline rush you first receive from the start. Their set included two brand new songs, the aforementioned opener and “Tired of Winning”. In addition to that, it was an impeccable combination of their two previously released full-length albums. All of their fan-favorite songs made the cut. “Tired of Winning” allowed the band’s full creativity to be placed on display. Hawkins’s vocals fluctuate with total ease and push out the full strength of his vocal cords. Laying underneath it all were picked bass lines that released a spring-sounding effect. There was so much happening. “Jenny” was also one of the many highlights. A “Song about my sister” as proclaimed by Hawkins turned into arguably Ben Anderson’s stand-out portion of the evening. He sat back during the intro and sang along. While mouthing the lyrics he hit snare and toms to build up and lead into the main verse. There was no doubt his emphatic playing added to the pure heart-wrenching content. The atmosphere surrounding the song itself while being played was eye-opening. The audience sang the lyrics in the same emotional cadence. Clearly, their message has been sent out about mental health and bipolar disease. To those of use that are also fans this also includes charities, they are very active with.
Lifting the mood back to an all-out rock extravaganza, “Don’t Stop” whipped the crowd back into an absolute frenzy. There weren’t any crowd surfers, but there for sure were quite a few circle pits stomping around The Sylvee floor. Dust kicking up. Shoes are being flung around. Blasting vocals and vibratos creates a unique listening experience that can only be matched by their incredible talents of the strings. Laying out riffs that are unlike most items in their catalog, Vollelunga, and Oliver, fire off with such intensity. Giving riveting moments of interaction with those in the front row. Flicking picks and standing on the risers in front of their microphones were complimented by finger points and screaming out the lyrics. These pair are a must-see.
With the final song of the evening being “This Is The Time(Ballast)”, the band smashed every little nuance within the song so well and were floor-shakingly heavy throughout it. The intro provided us all with a perfectly synced and soulful harmony. As soon as the strings kicked in Jonny Hawkins screamed, “Everyone up”. The audience obliged and surged forward. From there it turned into a sing-along. Every chorus filled The Sylvee and echoed across the venue. Oliver, playing his Ernie Ball Bongo 5-string bass, plucked out some filthy and body rattling riffs. Probably the most intensity he had all evening and that is saying something considering he thrash his headstock around and screamed at every opportunity. Towards the end of the finale, Hawkins was once again perched on “The Scorpion Tail” smashing the drums before standing straight on top of it yelling “Wisconsin, I can’t hear you”. Which in turn unleashed a deafening response from the crowd. The outro was very fun. Left on stage Vallelunga and Oliver hit on their own drums elevated to their height. That led to the both of them jumping into the photo pit and greeting every fan they could along the security barrier. They handed out picks and drumsticks to the very animated crowd.
Overall, this was a culmination of a multitude of great things. The first was blatantly obvious, Nothing More are top-tier performers. The passion for their art is ever so present. The lighting, banner, and the Scorpion Tail drum kit with keyboards are finely detailed items that the band themselves designed. Their stage setup is built for efficiency and performance impact. Whatever the word “rockstar” means these days they for sure have it. The lyrical content of their music alone is gripping and thought-provoking. Lined with hugely intelligent verses that are backed by heartaches and emotions within the choruses. These sentiments were easily sensed through Hawkins’ singing. His bending of notes and vibratos only added to the live experience. Nothing More provided everything and more to those there to witness it. Easily one of the best performances of the year. No doubt a perfect example of showmanship and musicianship. Now, all we have to do is wait for another tour and a full-length album. The anticipation for those things overwhelmingly grew after tonight.
Nothing More Charity partners:
To Write Love on Her Arms - http://twloha.com
The Jed Foundation – http://www.jedfoundation.org
Bring Change 2 Mind - http://bringchange2mind.org
International Bipolar Foundation - http://www.ibpf.org
Young Minds - http://www.youngminds.org.uk
1. Turn It Up
2. Let ‘Em Burn
3. Christ Copyright
5. Do You Really Want It
8. Don’t Stop
9. Go To War
10. I’ll Be OK
11. Tired of Winning
12. Fade In Fade Out
13. This Is The Time (Ballast)