The story of Bring Me the Horizon is a caterpillar-to-butterfly story. Anyone imagining the band they once were — floppy-haired, scrappy deathcore kids from Sheffield — headlining the Reading Festival would have spat their drink out in shock if they got to peer a decade-and-a-half into the future, but that’s part of the beauty of it all. They’ve become arena rock behemoths by way of defiance, evolving into a leaner, more forward-thinking band than any of their detractors thought possible and shaping the sound of modern rock while they’re at it.
Yet underneath this, their story is also an underdog story, for even as they evolved into themselves, scaling venues from academies to arenas, they brought the outsiders with them, raising emo kids into emo elders. When they explode from the traps in a shower of sugar pink heart-shaped confetti to the electrifying sound of ‘Can You Feel My Heart’, it feels beyond celebratory – it feels like the outsiders have won. Not just the five men on stage – everyone here has won, by putting this band on the most gigantic stage of their lives. And, of course, the celebration begins with a gargantuan mosh pit, towards which the fans run like they’ve been waiting for it for a long, long time.
The dazzling hour-and-a-quarter of music to come aims to be cinematic, an experience more than a mere festival set, with soul-shaking riffs, eye-searingly bright visuals and futuristic audio interludes from the robotic voice heard in the studio recording of ‘Parasite Eve’ (which presents the show as an ‘experiment for the next gen’), and in that it succeeds. Elsewhere, there’s plenty to rave about, from the determination with which guitarists Lee Malia and Mat Kean bang their heads as they attack their guitars to the strength in frontman Oli Sykes’ vocal cords that’s unlike anything he has had for years (and rejoice, old school fans, the death growls are back!). It would also be remiss to overlook the audacious genius of bringing out Ed Sheeran, of all people, for a spiky reprise of their ‘Bad Habits’ collaboration from February’s BRIT Awards.
However, the thing that really sets this performance apart is more simple – tonight, Bring Me the Horizon are performing with more heart than they have ever had. There’s no hollowness in Sykes’ words when he tells his rapt crowd, “You guys have saved my life so many fucking times; you don’t even know,” during a triumphantly sentimental ‘Strangers’, but the most powerful moments here aren’t brought about by words. It’s genuinely heartening to see him get in with the crowd to hug and high five fans during a soaring rendition of ‘Drown’, even kissing one on the cheek, proving that despite their size as a band, they’ve not left their devotees behind. Later, a beautifully fragile take on ‘Follow You’ is thrown to the fans who hold their phone lights aloft, Sykes’ voice practically a whisper as thousands of voices drown him out, while Ukraine flags are waved during almighty closer ‘Throne’. On both sides of the barrier, the devotion is furious. It’s one glistening element of what promised to be a set of historic proportions, and that potential has been thoroughly fulfilled.