Nothing More Ignite Islington Academy in Long-awaited UK Return

The sudden rise in temperature gifting the City of London the first proper summer day is not the only thing that is setting spirits alight tonight. The Islington Academy sees a packed house at this totally sold-out show, where the Nothing More disciples have descended to salute the Texan marvel upon the hundreds, despite it being a school night.

Nothing More 

O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023

Words: Danielle Jones

Photography: Antonio Giannattasio

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

Nothing More have been missing from UK shores since 2019, and they could not be more thrilled to be back. They take to the stage literally beaming when greeted with the warmest of welcomes from their loving British fans. 

Singer and frontman Johnny Hawkins enters commando style, covered in red and black paint, finger still wrapped in bandages, as if he is truly returning from the battlefield. Hawkins had literally spilt his finger in half on the rim of the drum during his explosive closing drum performance at Grasspop Metal Meeting in Belgium. He needed stitches.

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

The band opens with Spirits, the title track from their latest album, released last October 2022. Cheers and chants calling out their name lift in the air in unison, and that indeed seems to seal the deal. The singer follows with a pause; he says he needs a moment to take it all in. 

“Are you happy we are back? We are very happy to be back and, you know what, we will come back soon!”

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

This date is a filler in between Nothing More’s European tour of festivals. They have played Nova Rock, Grasspop, and Hellfest and are now onto Knotfest in Italy, to then carry on for more US dates and a tour Down Under. 

We hear it first that they are now also promising to soon come back for a full UK headline tour.

This is meant to be an intimate show. However, one does have to wonder that the Academy is simply too compact for a band of this stature. 

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

It is unfortunate that they play on such a hot day because the cooling system is simply unable to cope with demand, and the band have to double up with large on-stage fans. To say that the heat feels oppressing is an understatement.

Do You Really Want It? Follows in all its grandiosity, where the band’s energy is indeed at a fever pitch. The choruses erupt in harmonious sequence while guitarist Mark Vollelunga goes to town on the wah-wah during his solo. 

The hits unleash in relentless sequence, and Tired Of Winning proves to be another absolute blinder.

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

The beauty of this band is the skilful juxtaposition of brutal and melodic. Ships In The Night, followed by You Don’t Know What Love Means offer a beautiful moment of reflection, where the poignant lyrics of the latter literally prove spine-tingling.

In an era oversaturated with self-indulgence, exterior, and make-believe, it is truly refreshing to find not only remarkable talent, but a depth of meaning, thought provoking-ness and sheer genuine bare exposure. It is not a wonder that Johnny Hawkins has been dubbed the new Jim Morrison of the 21st century, even though the songwriting in places remains a team effort.

And on that very note, the band carry on with Mr MTV. “Empty me, empty nation, Emptied us of inspiration.”

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

It’s enough that Hawkins pronounces the words “this one is about my sister” that the entire floor breaks out into another thunder of cheers, and literally every soul is singing along to the lyrics of Jenny.

Impossible to pick out the better songs. The foursome does not once lose momentum, and even on the slow tempo numbers, they literally give it their very all. Testament to that is the combustible Let ’em Burn and Go To War, where the heat is not the only thing that is melting faces. Here is a truly special moment when a quieter interlude commands a call and response with the audience. The singer draws an imaginary wall in between when singing the refrain “Do we feel safe (yet)?”

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

More intense moments, like the moving Fadein/Fadeout that the singer wrote for his father, alternate to more playful ones: “I have to say, you are the best singing audience we have met on this tour. Let me hear all the ladies go (growl), and the men go (in a very high pitched, feminine) aw!.”

But the high octane energy carries on with more hits like Don’t Stop and the bombastic This Is the Time (Ballast)

The set embodies an equal split of numbers extracted from Nothing More’s entire back catalogue. The band ensure to keep the audience fully engaged by letting them hang from every note. They even take turns jumping into the crowd brandishing their instruments, and getting people involved.

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

Disbelievers of encores, truly cathartic, is the ending where the singer (original drummer of the band), grabs a drum, a pair of sticks and gives it literally everything he has got. And what a way to exit, indeed.

It has been disappointing to notice the absence of their awaited single Turn It Up Like (Stand In The Fire), given how abruptly they have ended their set. One can only assume that they got overwhelmed by the heat, which is indeed an absolute shame. 

The place was so tightly packed it felt uncomfortable, and even the scorpion tale, their majestic Esher-esque sequencer structure, had to be omitted due to the lack of stage perimeter.

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

Nothing More may have left people wanting more. Nonetheless, they have offered a superb performance throughout. One can only hope that the next time will happen soon, and, hopefully, in a much bigger and better-ventilated environment.

Glory days expect the Texan phenomenon, and we shall indeed eagerly await.

Nothing More - O2 Academy, Islington - 19 June 2023
Nothing More – O2 Academy, Islington – 19 June 2023. Photo: Antonio Giannattasio/MetalTalk

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