A typically cold and rainy December night in South Wales saw people flock to the downstairs bar of Clwb Ifor Bach to see Swedish post-hardcore outfit Normandie and Yellowcard’s Ryan Key. Jack Bennett opened proceedings, playing songs from his Grumble Bee project. There were a good number of fans in the room, evidenced by the voices echoing Jack‘s lyrics. Clearly an experienced performer, Bennett provided great crowd interaction in between his technically impressive acoustic ballads. With a voice to be envied, Grumble Bee is an act to be watched in 2018. [7/10]
Ryan Key was the second performance of the night. It was initially quite jarring to see him taking the floor by himself, not flanked by four other musicians, but his reimagined versions of classic Yellowcard songs weighted his stage presence. Inspired by electronica acts as well as Yellowcard’s own album Lift a Sail, Key delivered earth rumbling renditions of such songs as ‘Lights & Sounds’, ‘Only One’ and even deep cuts like ‘Keeper’, all played on a laptop and an electric guitar. Each song was prefaced with a story of his old band, detailing the inspirations and meaning behind some of them. There were no new songs to be heard, but there was a cover of Like Torches‘ upcoming song ‘Live On’, a song co-written by Key about the late Chester Bennington and his many fans. It was a tearjerker moment for many in the crowd, who had previously been happily swaying and singing loudly to their favourite Yellowcard songs. The set was rounded off by a beautiful version of ‘Ocean Avenue’, sung with the passion of a man who has not forgotten how he got to where he is. Though there were no new songs to be heard, and despite fighting through some illness, this introduction to the new sound of Ryan Key is promising, and his pending album should be eagerly anticipated by any Yellowcard fan. [8/10]
After a short wait, it was the turn of the headline act, Normandie. Having played Cardiff a few times over the past couple of years, the band were confident and comfortable. Disappointingly, much of the crowd had left after Key‘s set, but the ones that remained seemed to be fairly die hard fans. The band’s interesting blend of synth and post-hardcore makes for a stunning live set, with a great light set up and a real crisp backing track. They did, however, make the night have an odd feel, with two acoustic/stripped down support acts into a heavier, post-hardcore performance.
Having spoken to guitarist Håkan Almbladh briefly before the set, he said it was a long time since the band had played a floor show, but that didn’t stop them from bringing the energy. Singer Philip Strand utilised the small space well, interacting with the crowd at any possible moment, even jumping in the middle towards the end. Though the set seemed a little short, it was nevertheless neatly packaged and high quality, with everybody in the Cardiff crowd leaving satisfied. [8/10]
It was a night if strong performances at Clwb Ifor Bach. None of the acts disappointed, and played their hearts out despite the cramped space.