Review by Emma Sherar with Photography by Chloe Chaplin

As Grammy Nominated American Rock Band Highly Suspect take to the stage of 400 Capacity Oslo Hackney, it feels like a reflection of their humble beginnings playing Dive Bars across the states.

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The one off London show acts as a celebration of their latest album, MCID, ahead of their larger UK Tour beginning in March. This particular feels more personal, as the heat of the crowd instantly hits me as I walk through the doors. While the band cram onto the small stage up front, everyone becomes aware that tonight is something special, a more connected show, with each member of the crowd feeling in reaching distance of the band.

The give-no- fuck attitude of front man Johnny Stevens oozes out into the crowd as the band begin their set with moody crowd pleaser ‘Bath Salts,’ the grittiness of the guitar vibrating through the floorboards. What is instantly most striking to me is Steven’s ability to play up to the crowd in true frontman form, insisting repetition of the chant of MCID (standing for My Crew is Dope) throughout the show, which is not only the title of the latest album, but something the band have used as a motto to represent them for a while.

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A break from the relentless energy of the two-hour set, emotion fills the room as Rich Meyers takes to the front to acoustically perform hard hitting track Arizona, his soothing voice directly conveying the sadness of the lyrics, which brings a silence to the otherwise lively audience.

The show has a rowdiness to it that highlights your typical Rock show, despite the bands conscious effort to move into other genres with their new album. When Johnny lights a cigarette on stage, a fan in the crowd joins him, before hastily being taken outside by security. It is the old songs that stay instant crowd pleasers, however the most powerful moment of the night is when every member of the crowd chants “Dear Johnny, be honest you can change if you want it” from ‘Fly,’ a song about Stevens awareness to deal with his demons. This chant instantly puts a smile on Johnny’s face, as the show begins to feel almost like a therapy session.

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Stripped behind the activeness of the gig, which sees both the band and audience crowd surfing under low ceilings, it acts as a powerful reminder of how music helps through personal struggles and that everyone can relate to struggles and heartache that MCID so perfectly conveys. Johnny ends with a candid reminder ‘be respectful of each other, you never know what’s going to happen in life.’ The close nature felt on the night only further highlights that Highly Suspect is a global family, and the crew really is dope.

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