Review: R5 @ The O2 Academy, Birmingham

Stood amongst a sea of 11 year old girls in homemade t-shirts at 7pm on a Sunday night made me feel like I had taken a wrong turning. I'd meant to arrive at an R5 gig yet I seemed to have ended up at one of my old Year 6 discos where we'd stick a disco ball to the roof and decorate the hall with tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Although Birmingham's O2 was lacking in the arts and crafts we did have a disco ball to send dots of light across the room which, in addition, decorated the young girl's faces as if the glitter smeared across their foreheads was not quite enough.

Surprisingly enough, I wasn't actually there to rock out to the YMCA. I was there to listen to some proper music (no offence to any fans of the Village People, if any actually exist) in the form of R5. The American 5 piece were kicking off the UK leg of their tour in Birmingham and my friend Mollie and I were not going to miss out. Having released their new album Sometime Last Night previously this year they've spent the last few months touring America and Europe and despite the fact I can only name about 2 people who are aware of their existence they had quite a turnout. Due to most of their time being spent in America it is easy to forget that you're not the only people in the country that listens to their music.

However misleading the young fans may be- R5 isn't just for youngsters. Their music is a blend of both rock and pop and captures energy at is fullest. Their new album has taken a more mature approach to music than the last with a majority of songs written or contributed to by the members. The album is based upon real life stories and focuses on the idea that life is something you should experience at it's fullest. The band, consisting of Riker Lynch, Ross Lynch, Rydel Lynch, Rocky Lynch and Ellington Ratliff, all play their own instruments and contribute vocally. Their voices are complimented by a mixture of rhythm guitar, bass, keyboard and drums.

After 4 hours in the back of a car, we arrived in Birmingham at half past 5 expecting nobody to be queueing at such an early time seen as the doors didn't open for another hour and a half. How naive we were. From the small forts of blankets and pizza boxes strewn across the floor it gave the impression that the clusters of people outside had been waiting for quite some time. By the time we got inside out of the cold we were situated about 10 rows back and the smell of perfume and sweat seemed to waver in the air. These girls had really put the effort in an attempt to bag a date with lead singer Ross Lynch- who, may I add, was almost twice their age.

Support came from Ryland Lynch, brother to four of the bands five members, who showcased his DJing abilities through a range of charts songs. Most people who know me well are aware that the thought of listening to the majority of chart songs makes me shiver and I can barely sit through even the chorus of Maroon 5's Sugar. However, the way he had adapted them had me singing along too. The fact that the range of songs were current meant the crowd could scream the words to their full potential and it became clear that a room of 11 year old girls did have it's perks- they weren't afraid to enjoy themselves and they weren't stupidly tall. Result.

At about half past 8 R5 walked on stage. This small action was reciprocated with screams so loud I had to physically block my ears in fear of having to attend college the following day with failed hearing. Glancing around there were a mixture of eyes full of both tears and admiration, but don't be tricked into thinking these 11 year old fans are innocent. They're far from it. It wasn't until part way through that they unleashed their full potential. Screaming "Take your top off!!!" and "Daddy!!!" not only made me gag a bit but also made me sad. A favourite song of mine, Repeating Days, finishes with a solo piece from Ross that has so much emotion carried through it. It was a moment I waited for in anticipation but squeals and obscene shouts muffled the sound. I can't really complain because we all know I was once 13 years old at a Midnight Beast concert crying with happiness into my own homemade top but I just wish they'd allowed themselves to enjoy the music a bit more.

Despite the crowd, the night was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. The actions of those around us were ultimately seen as a bit of pre-show entertainment and we were really there to listen to the live music. R5 filled the room with sound for about 2 hours. Their 17 song set list consisted of a mix of songs from their new album, some older favourites and a cover of Kings of Leon's Sex On Fire. They opened up with All Night, the first track from their new album, which set the scene for what was to come.

I'm never one to pick a highlight with ease but Repeating Days and Dark Side did stick out to me. Another treat was when Rydel left the safety of her keyboard part way through the evening and took to centre stage to sing Lightning Strikes where she was full of effervescence, a feeling that was shared with the crowd. The night came to a close after a two piece encore of Aint No Way We're Going Home and Smile before the band proceeded to chuck guitar picks, set lists and Riker's sweaty towel into the crowd. If anyone has any information on which of the seven 13 year old girls won the towel please get in touch with me because I would love to know if they stood their shouting at each other and yanking it for long after I left. Mollie and I stood watching (and filming) them for a good five minutes as they screamed abuse at each other in a never ending game of tug of war. Why they wanted a towel covered in sweat is beyond me when they could probably pick up a decent clean one for a couple of pounds in Sainsburys.

As the night drew to a close, Mollie and I stood outside dancing around in the dark waiting to be picked up, and it was clear in my head that R5 really was the best year 6 disco I'd ever attended. What an achievement.

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