No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London, review: Former Lostprophets find their way with new frontman Geoff Rickly


Bandmates overcome tragedy to make triumphant return at debut London show

“A lot of you are here because you knew the band that these guys were in before,” says No Devotion frontman Geoff Rickly to a packed Islington Academy. “You literally saw one of the worst f***ing breakups of all time."

It is two-thirds into the transatlantic band’s first ever London show before the gangly New Jerseyite addresses the world’s biggest elephant, looming heavily over the modest-sized room.

The five musicians on stage beside him used to fight under a different banner –  one now irreversibly tainted by the actions of their singer, the convicted paedophile Ian Watkins. Welsh rockers Lostprophets had built a huge name for themselves – not to mention an adoring young fanbase – in their 15-year career, achieving number-one albums, headlining arenas and becoming darling “edgy” faces of mainstream radio. This was all brought crashing down when Watkins pleaded guilty to a string of sickening sex offences and was jailed for 29 years in December.

This crashing down is encompassed tonight in “Death Rattle,” a short instrumental interlude Rickly tells us was written after the breakdown of Lostprophets. The  five Welshmen – guitarists Lee Gaze and Mike Lewis, bassist Stuart Richardson, drummer Luke Johnson and keyboardist Jamie Oliver – launch into a brutal post-rock crescendo as black and white clips of building demolitions are projected on to a big screen, providing a backdrop to the most cathartic point in a set in which both tensions and emotions run high.

It was clear when Watkins – the Voldemort figure lying heavy in the air, though never mentioned by name  - was jailed that the band were never going to be able to perform in the same way again, but make no mistake, No Devotion are in no way Lostprophets in all but moniker and singer.

Rickly, himself the former frontman of influential east coast post-hardcore group Thursday, provides the complete antithesis of Watkins, his elastic, interpretive onstage flailing as far away from Watkins’ cocky , rock star posturing as his distinctive, airy vocals are from the former singer’s clean, radio-rock tones. No Devotion’s sound as a whole leans far more heavily on moody Eighties post-punk and electro-pop than either Lostprophets’ shiny, accessible pop-rock, or Thursday’s technical, yet thrashy emo.

Set opener “Night Drive” sees echoed guitars join forces with piping synths to give way to driving rhythms and a chanted chorus, while “I Want to Be Your God” is sweeping and dark, displaying Rickly’s vocal  range in its simple, yet never poppy, refrain. The cinematic nature is instilled in each track with changing montages on the projector screen. Splodges of technicolour bombard the canvas during “10,000 Summers”, a track Rickly confirms will be the next single and which provides a springboard for a subtle dig at the scorching, if not brief, British heatwave we’re experiencing outside the air-conditioned venue.

Read more:
Ian Watkins refused parole
Lostprophets members return as No Devotion
Lostprophets bandmates open up about Watkins

After coming on arms around one another to shouts of “C’mon, boys!”, there’s a real sense of camaraderie and homecoming between fans and the band, and while Gaze and Lewis struggle to shake off a visible anxiety about their return, Richardson bounds his athletic form around enthusiastically and shares many an-ear-to-ear grin with Oliver and drummer Johnson at the back of the stage.

With the exception of an emphatic Valleys-tinged “thank you!” from Richardson, the American is left to do all the talking –  a task that he takes up with gusto. Telling us how it was not he who saved his bandmates, but them who “picked him up like a brother” during a period of deep depression over a breakup, he launches into an intense, over-dramatic diatribe about the nature of heartbreak and music being his saviour.

“We wrote this not as a pop song,” he says, introducing first single “Stay”, one of only two tracks heard by the audience before tonight, making the huge turnout all-the-more commendable.

“It’s a song about… how f***ing blinding [heartbreak] is, how it takes up your whole life and  it spits you out and it makes you into nothing,” he says earnestly. “It makes you f***ing scared and f***ing tired and it tears you up.”

Cynics would call it an act, but if so, he’s a convincing thespian.

Despite Rickly’s pledge, “Stay” is the poppiest moment of the set, with a pounding bass riff and whispy synths conjuring images of neon lights and smoky clubs in the 1980s, before the euphoric singalong chorus kicks in. Emotionally raw, yet melodically commercial, this is what Robyn would sound like if she ditched electronic pop for moody rock and roll.

Finishing on the looming and noisy “Grand Central” (an American singer allows for more glamourous lyrical references than the “the 12:40 to Ponty”), Rickly apologises for the snappy nine-song set, but insists it’s because they’re “just getting started”.

If Lostprophets were burned to the ground by the horrific acts committed by Watkins, then No Devotion, led by Rickly, are the phoenix from those ashes, and this triumphant return shows a strong foundation to start building from again.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'