When attending a show by an American rock band on a tour called the Chill Out Summer Acoustic Tour, you can expect an odd performance.
And Sleeping With Sirens’ show at the Great American Music Hall on July 31 was most definitely not chill, as the band attempted — and failed — to broach a range of serious topics through its music. The result was an odd performance that spoke to the adolescent mind.
After two eccentric openers, Kulick and The Rocket Summer, Sleeping With Sirens began with “Go Go Go.” Despite the long wait leading up to the headlining set, the crowd eagerly cheered and carried the enthusiasm throughout the night.
The band seemed a little shocked by the audience’s excitement and started off low in energy. While “Go Go Go” is a catchy, fast song, the band members seemed like they had just woken up from a nap. Eventually, they picked up on the crowd’s energy, and the members of Sleeping With Sirens took the audience on a rollercoaster, moving between clappy rock songs such as “Better Off Dead” and slow melodies such as “Another Day.”
Taken altogether, the variety of the band’s songs produced a slightly kitschy representation of teenage angst. From saccharine melodies about love that lasts forever to “deep” songs about the Trump era, the band clearly tried to make the performance meaningful and impactful. Despite this noble intention, Sleeping With Sirens was only partially successful, as the songs remained on a surface level.
“Empire to Ashes” from the band’s 2017 album Gossip was written when Donald Trump was elected president, as lead singer Kellin Quinn explained. Before he performed the song, in fact, he clarified that the song is “not about ‘Game of Thrones’ ” but “about political shit.”
The song discusses the band’s newfound cynicism given the presidency, and how it’s “Looking for the antidote / To break the chains they put us in.” It’s about how the “old empire” has burned to ashes. Sure, Trump sucks, but it begs to be asked: Was America really ever an empire, and what chains is Quinn, a white lead singer of a popular band, in?
Similarly, halfway through the show, Quinn dedicated the song “Better Off Dead” to those who are struggling with anxiety and depression. The song is chilling, as it concerns suicide and how a community can prevent individuals from feeling alone.
But before performing the song, Quinn called suicide “selfish” and said people who are suicidal should “fuckin’ suck it up.” This note before his performance reflected a clear immaturity when it comes to complicated topics, an immaturity that permeated the performance.
However, this uncomfortable attempt at meaning didn’t seem to affect the show at large. To put it simply, the band sounded good — it succeeded in bringing the crowd to its feet, making fans dance and clap along to fast, catchy tempos. Drummer Gabe Barham kept the floor reverberating with his unerring rhythm; it was as if he were producing the heartbeat of the concert hall.
Though Quinn branched off to do solos along with Nick Martin on the guitar, the band’s best moments occurred when all five performed together. Quinn’s wispy, smooth voice folded in with the beat as well as the rest of the band, producing a collective sound. This sound was one that was distinctly Sleeping With Sirens. Thus, songs such as “Gold” and “Gossip” felt almost celestial, with the stage lights complementing the cohesive sound of the band.
The show wrapped up with the band’s 2017 single “Legends” and one teenager in the crowd yelling, “Time for some emo shit,” as Quinn sang, “We can be wild, we can be free.” In a sense, this song represents the entire vibe of the band, as its songs speak to the teenage heart with surface-level meaning.
That being said, Sleeping With Sirens is not your typical boy band that is trying to grasp the teenage spirit. It is an American rock band, reaching for meaning and not quite getting there.
Contact Malini Ramaiyer at [email protected].