Live Review – half•alive at HERE at Outernet

Words: Benns Borgese | Photography: Lucy Browne

The underground tunnels aren’t the only thing running below the busy streets of central London.

By the Tottenham Court Road tube stop, just between the surface and the many tube lines raveling beneath it, is HERE at Outernet. Taking the stage at what currently is one of London’s most talked about venues is the Long-Beach-native band half•alive; with support from the German yet interestingly California-sounding WizTheMc, the crowd warmed up to the singer’s interactive and energetic set.

For the following two hours HERE is quite literally taken behind the curtain of half•alive’s Conditions of a Punk. As the show opens, a drape is held at the front of the stage, the vocalist’s silhouette presenting to the audience as a shadow cast in the middle of a spotlight for the first two songs of the set. Joined by two dancers that help bringing the band’s songs fully to life, the set unfolds season by season, a journey that starts from summer on the notes of the track ‘Summerland’.

Despite its title, half•alive’s show lacks punkness: as the eponymous 2022 album establishes, Josh Taylor – the band’s frontman – has distanced himself from his punk past to make room for love and the death of his own ego, something that is reflected in the group’s visuals and sounds. One may even say having two dancers on stage is the least punk thing the trio could resort to. In a venue known for its big, massive LED screen, half•alive’s boldest decision is to not make any use of it, staying true to their minimalistic production.

As the seasons progress, so does the set: by the time winter rolls around, Taylor is left alone on the stage to initiate the acoustic portion of the set. It’s here that the band performs a cover of Phil Collins’ ‘Strangers Like Me’ from Disney’s 1999 animated movie Tarzan. What may appear as an odd choice is a fitting addition to the setlist: with its lyrics, the song further explores some of the topics expressed by half•alive themselves in their songs – the discovery of love, a sense of wonder, longing for something new.

“We’re here mainly I think for the interchange” says Taylor when introducing ‘Nobody’, the first song in the closing section of the show, Spring. A reflection on the concept of notoriety and what it is like to be in the spotlight, for the song the band is joined on stage by English singer-songwriter Dodie, artist featured on a more recent version of the track. The choreographed approach to the song – as with others on the setlist – highlights its lyrics as if they were written in bold capital letters right before the audience’s eyes: “Movin’ up the ladder doesn’t really matter / As long as I’m in the lead”, up the stairs-like blocks they go, “See ‘em at the top, but leave ‘em at the bottom / Focus on the come up, become someone”, and back down they go in a never-ending chase to fame.

An experience that goes beyond the auditory with its interpretative choreographs and visual aids, half•alive’s Conditions of a Punk gives audiences a look into a short portion of the fluctuating journey that is life.

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