Live Zone

Against The Current / guccihighwaters, Islington Assembly Hall, London 13th December 2019




There’s an allotment-owning bearded bloke with some spare time on his hands, who lives a stone’s throw from tonight’s venue. If he had planned to pop in for this gig, traffic snarl ups might well have put him off.

Yes. We are in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency on the same day he announced he will resign as Labour leader, after The Tories won a landslide victory to re-elect them in the UK’s pre-Christmas General Election.

The grid locked London streets caused by thousands of peed-off people protesting at Boris and his Conservative colleagues being installed for another five-year term.

For Jezza, the date is pretty apt. Friday the 13th. Said to be unlucky for some. But for most of us, after the last three years of Brexit, Brexit and more damned Brexit on our TV screens, on-line and in the press, and then all the recent election campaigning malarkey, it really is due time to switch off from all that.

Perhaps to adhere to what the philosopher Nietzsche said: “We have art so we will not die of reality”. I doubt he was talking about “TOWIE”, “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” or any of the other reality TV shows, either!

The art form 800 of us jumped headfirst into tonight as a welcome distraction to reality, was music. Superb music, in fact. From American pop rock trio Against The Current,  who are signed to Fueled By Ramen, honouring the final date of their current “Past Lives” tour.

The band are back in the city where they played their first sold out gig on a previous tour, but this time they are in residency for two consecutive nights – the second of which was sold out. They also played Cardiff and Manchester on this run.

But they love this town. It is “special”, singer Chrissy Costanza told the fans at the start of their two-song encore, during what really was a triumphant show.

Opening the night is New-York based guccihighwaters, aka Morgan Murphy, who grew up in Ireland and moved to the US when he was 15. He cites his “isolated” beginnings as the catalyst for his work ethic and focus on his home recording process.

Despite having only been on the scene since 2017, guccihighwaters has built up one heck of a following in just over two years, clicking up nearly 750,000 monthly Spotify listeners.

He has since self-released the album “post death”, a clutch of EPs, including “NOVEMBER”, “not around here”, “nineteen” – and  a bunch singles – before signing to Epitaph Records who dropped his first single for the label, “High School”, which came out the same day as this gig.

Originally a beat-maker under the pseudonym of Notmorgn, tonight he has a DJ for company for an impressive and solid half hour set of hip hop and emo material. After a rather slow start, the crowd did as they were asked and turned on the lights to their mobiles, as he performed the new single.

A talented young artist who shows big potential for the future, and I have no doubt won many new fans tonight.

Headliners time: The core unit of Chrissy Costanza, guitarist Dan Gow and drummer Will Ferri were joined by their touring bass player, who also played keyboards. They started off as they meant to go on, firing on all cylinders and keeping nothing in reserve.

Their power and energy was quite something, and really pumped up the audience who fed it back to the stage like a generator at the National Grid. I did wonder if the acoustics would be OK in this very nice 1930s Art-Deco venue, as it had high ceilings, but my concerns were unfounded.

Opening with “Voices”, taken from their current album, 2018’s “Past Lives”, the set was a joyous celebration of tracks from everything the band has ever released since forming in 2011.

They faultlessly delivered tracks from both albums, “Past Lives” and their 2016 debut “In Our Bones”, and from their two EPs, 2014’s “Infinity” and the follow up “Gravity”, which dropped the following year.

Lead singer Christina Nicola “Chrissy” Costanza was in almost continuous incendiary mode and her break-neck speed dashing around the stage and high jumps – plus stepping onto (and kneeling on) the upended equipment flight cases placed in the pit to extend the stage a tad – never once affected the vocals and her control. You’d think this was gig # 1 on a tour, not the final date. I’ll have what she is drinking!

High points of the set included some of their best-known songs, “Running With The Wild Things”, “Runaway”, “Strangers Again” and “Almost Forgot”.

The 100 mile an hour pace lasted for the first 11 of their 19 songs, before it was time for Chrissy to calm things down and send the guys off stage, except drummer Will who swapped his kit for keyboards, for the pair to perform a lovely stripped-down medley of “Brighter” and “Comeback Kid”.

Taken from their first album and first EP respectively. Chrissy looking surprised that the fans knew all of the lyrics to “Comeback Kid”.

For “Sweet Surrender”, guitarist Dan is back and Will still on keyboards. Then the bassist returns and the drummer is back behind his kit in his comfort zone. It is business as usual, as they save the biggest songs until the end of the set. “Blood Like Gasoline”, “Talk” and “Paralyzed”. Excellent versions they were too.

The cacophonous chanting of the band’s acronym, the clapping and the stomping of 800 pairs of feet paid off, when the band returned for “Gravity” – which Chrissy named as her favourite song to perform live – and then the closer “Wasteland”.

The sea of twinkling mobile lights from the crowd for the encore was a real sight, almost festive, the scene looked more like a painting than reality for a few minutes.

Probably the gig of the year for me, and in my opinion ATC are a strong contender for best live act of 2019 in Music Republic Magazine’s annual end of year round-up and “Best Of 2019”, which will be published on our 3rd birthday this Sunday (15th Dec) .

The volume from the fans’ response to this blistering set tonight was enough to wake up the neighbours. I could name one local chap who had probably taken an early night. He really was working against the current, eh? Ohhh, Jeremy Corbyn…..


Words & photos: Andrea Bottino





“Running With The Wild Things”

“Young & Relentless”



“Chasing Ghosts”

“Strangers Again”

“I Like The Way”

“Almost Forgot”

“The Fuss”

“One More Weekend”

“Brighter”/”Comeback Kid” medley

“Sweet Surrender”

“Blood Like Gasoline”










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