Firstly, as you walked into Rough Trade it was clear to see that The Half Eight had put a lot of time and effort into dressing the venue. For those that are familiar with the venue, you will already know that it is an intimate size with the stage down one end, cut off from the bar area. This area had been further cut off by a gigantic banner behind the merch stand making the performance area darker, smaller and even more intimate. Gold records were hung from the ceiling and most surprising was the runway that had been set up coming off the stage. Last month when I interviewed The Half Eight, they promised production at their show and it appeared they were not going to disappoint.
Opening the night was Holly Fallon, who performed a selection of her own songs inspired by electronic/pop sounds with lyrics inspired by her life experiences set over the top. Holly has had support from BBC Introducing in the East Midlands, as well as her songs being played on American radio. Some of the highlights of her set included “Hindsight”, which was written as a break up song which went horribly wrong and she admitted that she never expected anybody to hear it. Holly finished with her self-confessed favourite from her EP ‘Blonde’ which the crowd enjoyed too.
Next up was Bronnie, a pop punk singer/songwriter from Liverpool who originally found fame on the Ryan Seacrest Cover Song Contest in Los Angeles, going on to win the show. Bronnie has also supported Little Mix and had support from Louis Tomlinson while involved in the American show back in 2014. As a tribute to supporting Little Mix, Bronnie performed a cover of “Shout Out to My Ex” and her set consisted of a mix of her original songs and other covers, including “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde. Although Bronnie was able to keep the crowd energised, with a group coming to the show specifically to see her perform, a lot of the quality of the performance was lost amongst her jumping and screaming, and the sound quality of the two guitarists supporting her also didn’t seem quite right. Bronnie has a unique style and a fierce attitude along with determination to succeed, but her performance would be greatly improved with increased focus on the quality of the music not just the power.
Finally, it was time for the headline show of the night, The Half Eight. As their walk on music began, the audience flooded back to fill the stage area and The Half Eight were greeted with screams of their fans as they began playing. They played three songs, including “Timezones” from their new EP, before stopping to talk with the crowd. They then went on to cover “Shotgun” by George Ezra, last year’s song of the summer. Increasing the crowd interaction and immersion, bassist Charlie chose a member of the audience to hold his microphone for him at the end of the runway, whilst he serenaded her for the first half of the next song. Also utilising the runway, James and Ollie then replaced Charlie at the end to finish the song, playing their guitars to each other in the middle of the audience. They then went on to play a brand new song “Easy Life” which they had only added to the set on Wednesday and was an upbeat summery tune written by Ollie.
During the rest of the set they did a couple more covers including “America” by Razorlight and “Sweet but Psycho” by Ava Max. In an odd twist to the set, the three mixed up their break between songs with an impromptu drum piece, which was a unique experience and led on to their next song “Love in the Dark”. Adding to the theatrics and production quirks, James then moved to the end of the runway to face the stage and sing his next song which was a little confusing as half of the audience then couldn’t see him and the song was obviously emotional and meaningful to him, yet we couldn’t see that feeling behind the lyrics. The set ended with one of their better-known songs “Kiss Me Like You Mean It” before the three exited the stage, saying goodbye to the audience. However, the performance wasn’t quite finished as they returned to the stage for an encore of “End it Right”, another one from ‘Rose Tinted Soul’, before leaving the stage for good.
Overall, the performance definitely had a lot of added quirks and The Half Eight had tried their hardest to add extra value to their performance, but it seemed to be lingering on the edge of pushing it too far and detracting from the music itself. The three are talented musicians with an ever-growing fan base and do not necessarily need to add something extra to each song. In the future it would be nice to see a more stripped back set, with less gimmicks and more focus on their musical ability which at times was unfortunately compromised last night. If they master that, there is nothing stopping The Half Eight from continuing to grow and making it further- where then perhaps a runway would be more fitting.