Date: December 6th 2017
Venue: Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Support: William Ryan Key / Grumble Bee
It’s very rare that a supporting act is causing more excitement than a headliner, but that’s exactly what we have tonight. Despite Normandie‘s ever growing stature, there’s no doubt that tonight’s excitement all centres around the performance of William Ryan Key. This is the first time the ex-Yellowcard frontman is playing shows on this shore, and no-one knows what to expect.
Before that, Grumble Bee  takes to the stage and plays a nice bunch of acoustic tunes. Jack Bennet, his actual name as opposed to his stage alias, is without doubt a super talented musician. He has a fantastic voice and ability on the guitar that create a really intense and intricate atmosphere, using only one instrument and a voice. The problem is that the sound isn’t great, and everything just gets muddled together into a melodic yet mostly indecipherable noise. You can’t tell which song is which, what he’s saying, or even what he’s playing. It’s a damn shame too, because his studio recordings are fantastic. It’s an unfortunate night for Bennet, but there’ll be much more to come for one of the brightest song writing talents in the UK right now.
As soon as William Ryan Key  takes to the stage, the crowd fills with anticipation. Is tonight just a Yellowcard acoustic cover set? Is it a set full of solo material, or something completely different? The answer: a little bit of all three. Key takes his time to explain where the ending of Yellowcard left him and how he got to this point in his life, following that he plays reworked renditions of his favourite songs from the band, using an electric guitar and samples that he’s been working on at home from his laptop.
The likes of ‘Lights And Sounds’ and ‘Only One’ sound unrecognisable as atmospheric synthesisers and drum loops are played over the top of them, but they sound very good. Key elaborates, “These are the same songs and the same words you all love, they just sound a little different and I hope you like it,” and the overall consensus is positivity. A highlight is a stripped back version of ‘Back Home’, which sets the room completely silent. Between songs he recites tales about touring, labels, and general stories of his time in Yellowcard which, are not only funny, but genuinely interesting. After playing an original song ‘Live On’, which follows the suit of emotive and atmospheric, he ends the set on ‘Ocean Avenue’, and the whole crowd sing along at the top of their lungs.
The room empties quite significantly after Key, so when Normandie  hit the stage, the room is only around half full. It doesn’t feel that way though, as the Swedish quartet sure know how to work an audience. Philip Strand‘s vocal range is phenomenal, and is showcased as the band open with ‘Fight’. The group’s infectious and refreshing brand of melodic metalcore has the room confused as whether to dance or to mosh. With only one full-length record to work with, there’s no surprise that the set is a relatively short one, but certainly serves as a great introduction to any newcomers in the crowd; it all sounds tight and sounds massive in this tiny room.
A noteworthy downside would be perhaps that they could fall into a category of trying too hard with on stage “banter”, as it doesn’t come across well with the crowd. There’s a slight sense of arrogance and pretentiousness surrounding the band, which tends to leave a sour taste in the mouth. Despite that, when Normandie get something right, oh boy is it right. Nothing is more apparent of that as when they close the show with ‘Collide’. It’s incredibly easy to imagine this being performed in arenas and festivals across the globe.
Tonight’s show feels like it was kind of thrown together without much thinking, and includes a complete clash of all genres. Despite that, it does kind of work, but there’s no doubt that tonight belongs to William Ryan Key.
Written by Jacob Eynon (@itsjustjake93)