5 Seconds Of Summer Bring Sketches & Singalongs To Arena Tour | Live Review

London, O2 Arena, October 5, 2023

Photo: Andy DeLuca

It’s been a decade since 5 Seconds Of Summer first played London’s O2 Arena.

A bucket list tour stop for most bands, the Australian four-piece graced the 20,000-capacity venue’s stage back in 2013 as fresh-faced teenagers supporting a little-known band called One Direction. The tour that kickstarted their stratospheric rise from four boys from Sydney’s western suburbs with a YouTube channel to international chart-topping hitmakers, whilst the band’s ‘Sounds Live Feels Live’ tour saw them return to headline the landmark venue for the first time in 2016 – tonight’s show is a special one.

With five albums now under their belt, the band’s latest tour is unlike anything they’ve done before. Titled ‘The 5 Seconds Of Summer Show’, the four-piece have drawn inspiration from late night entertainment shows to create a unique production full of skits, surprises, and more.

As bodies wearing t-shirts scrawled with slogans such as ‘lol ur not Ashton Irwin’ and ‘Michael wants another slice’ filter into the room, the screens around the venue light up with monochrome adverts for various products: from ‘5 Sauce’ hot sauce to a compilation CD titled ‘5 Seconds Of Summer: Number Twos’. A black and white checkerboard floor covers the stage, whilst a red ‘5 Seconds Of Summer Show’ curtain forms the tour’s iconic backdrop, surrounded by a frame of red lights.

After a US sitcom inspired pre-show safety message flashes across the screens, a skit shows the band leaving to head to the venue before the lights cut out. As they relight, four silhouettes appear behind the onstage curtain, swiftly dropping as screams echo through the room.

Opening on 2022 track ‘Bad Omens’, drummer Ashton Irwin sits atop a lit tiered platform in the centre of the stage, his bandmates commanding the space in front of him. Barrelling into wistful cut ‘2011’, guitarist Michael Clifford encourages the crowd in a singalong of the track’s bridge – “Back to the days when the days were better” – before confetti bursts out and showers them.

With a giant ‘5SOS’ sign flashing behind him, Luke Hemmings takes a moment for proper introductions: “Let me be the first to introduce you to The 5 Seconds Of Summer Show… If this is anyone’s first time seeing 5 Seconds Of Summer, welcome to the family. We like to scream, we like to sing, we like to dance, and mostly we like to cry.”

As a laugh comes back from the crowd, the opening notes of 2019 hit ‘Easier’ sound out, with Luke ditching his guitar and dancing through the confetti gathered onstage. Back-to-back snippets of ‘Babylon’ and ‘If Walls Could Talk’ follow, before Michael plays the iconic opening riff of outcast anthem ‘She’s Kinda Hot’ as Luke holds out his microphone stand into the crowd, grinning at the warm response.

Another skit appears on the venue’s screens, depicting the band dressed as doctors. Donning a surgical mask and scrubs, a concerned Michael addresses the audience: “You’re going too hard out there, we’re going to do some tests… I hope you don’t mind but we’ve removed the flannel from around your waist… We’ve got some bad news; you’ve been diagnosed a 5SOS fan – you need to slow down!”

Laughs erupt throughout the room, abruptly cutting out once the soft notes of fan-favourite 2014 track ‘Amnesia’ begin and thousands of phone lights make their way into the air. The pace picks back up for EDM-influenced ‘CAROUSEL’ and a rendition of the band’s 2019 collaboration with The Chainsmokers ‘Who Do You Love’ before slowing back down into gentle ballad ‘Vapor’, with Luke’s beautifully matured vocals taking centre stage throughout.

After the first chorus of pop-punk hit ‘Don’t Stop’ gets the entire room off their feet, Michael introduces the night’s next twist: “I know a lot of the time you come to our shows wanting to hear your favourite song, and we don’t play it,” he shrugs. “Well, tonight that’s going to change – but it’s all up to chance.”

A huge inflated red and white dice makes its way on-stage, each side labelled with a deep cut from the 5 Seconds Of Summer repertoire. After being thrown into the crowd, tossed around, and making its way back onstage, Luke turns the winning side towards the audience to reveal the winner – ‘English Love Affair’.

The fifth time that the 2014 track has proved victorious in the dice roll throughout the tour, afterwards bassist Calum Hood – the more reserved amongst the band – takes a moment to express his appreciation: “I’m a little bit shy tonight, but that’s because I really care that you all have a great night… We’ve been a band for about twelve years now. We still love doing this, we still love 5SOS, and 5SOS loves you.”

Moving to the back of the stage to join Luke and Michael atop a wall of lights for ‘Want You Back’, throwback ‘Disconnected’ sparks a huge singalong, before screams go up as Calum delivers the opening vocals of ‘5SOS5’ track ‘You Don’t Go To Parties’.

Taking his turn to talk to the crowd, Ashton recalls the band moving to London to write their first EP when he was around 15 years old: “I look at you and I see all these people who we grew up with, all these people we shared our childhood with… I can’t thank you enough for singing these songs that we wrote as little kids.”

It’s a warm sentiment for those who have watched the band grow over the last decade. A band who have grown with their fans and endured the highs and lows of becoming an adult together, there’s a feeling of mutual appreciation in the room, amplified when the screens become home to a ‘best friend cam’ during friendship anthem ‘Best Friends’. Framing members of the audience as they jump and sing along together – some old friends some new – it’s a heart-warming moment, showcasing the community spirit that has long defined the band and their fanbase.

Before a moody performance of industrial pop hit ‘Teeth’, an old-school video game graphic sees Ashton take on the audience in a ‘noise-o-meter’. Maxing out his score before blowing a kiss, a voice booms, “Get sauced”, as Michael and Luke shower the crowd in red and yellow confetti from giant ketchup and mustard bottles.

It’s another quirky antic that adds to the charm of the show, elevating the night from a concert into a full-scale experience. A meticulously planned production crafted by a band with a decade of huge shows under their belt, there’s still room for some special impromptu moments, as Michael hears the crowd chanting for 2014 b-side ‘Pizza’ – a light-hearted 40-second song about the guitarist’s love for the starchy food.

Arguably the band’s heaviest track to date, the floor blurs into a sea of pointed fingers, with a spotlight shining on a smiling Michael. With the guitarist taking the lead on angst-ridden 2015 single ‘Jet Black Heart’, a mass singalong to breakthrough hit ‘She Looks So Perfect’ draws the main set to a close, before the final skit of the night lights up on the screens.

With the band back at their hotel in white bathrobes talking about the show, an employee tells them that they have a phone call: “I think they want one more song”.

Sure enough, they do, and when the lights come back on 5 Seconds Of Summer are onstage in their bathrobes. Swiftly discarded before emotional cut ‘Outer Space’, the night rounds out with thumping 2018 hit ‘Youngblood’, with Ashton counting the crowd down for a final jump as confetti bursts out during the final chorus.

A night of back-to-back hits, surprises, and more, The 5 Seconds of Summer Show showcases just how far the four-piece have come over the last decade. From playing to twenty people in a park near Marble Arch to witnessing a crowd of 20,000 sing back every word of their five-album catalogue – their journey has been marked by talent, passion, determination, but most importantly – friendship. A phenomenal live band full of gratitude and gifted with the ability to foster a community unlike any other, tonight, 5 Seconds of Summer are truly something special.

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