Isabella Ambrosio details her experience at 5 Seconds of Summer’s ‘The Feeling of Falling Upwards (One Night Only)’ at Royal Albert Hall and reviews 5SOS5.
Oh, yes, another 5SOS piece. How does it feel, knowing that a 5SOS stan has been your Music Editor for three years? So, buckle up, this is gonna be a good one.
5 Seconds of Summer, also known as 5SOS, formed in 2011 in Sydney, Australia and have dominated the world ever since. Originally opening for One Direction in 2013; Luke Hemmings (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Calum Hood (bass guitar/back vocals), Michael Clifford (lead guitar/back vocals) and Ashton Irwin (drums/back vocals) were just teenagers, playing pop-rock songs, messing about on stage, developing a close relationship with their fanbase.
But, as time went on, hearts were broken, genres were explored, and the boys grew up - consistently debuting in the Billboard Top 200, their range of sounds well done and thoroughly enjoyed, 5SOS had a tough follow up to their 2020 album ‘CALM’.
To celebrate the release of their fifth record, 5SOS played a show at Royal Albert Hall in London the night before the 23rd of September, the release date of the album. They announced they would be playing a mix of new songs and the ol’ faithfuls at ‘The Feeling of Falling Upwards’ One Night Only gig. The event sold out within 5 minutes. The capacity of Royal Albert Hall is 10,000 with standing - 5SOS said their show wasn’t standing, so there were actually only 5,000 spots. I knew I had to be one of them. Following them since I was 11, back in 2012, and having access to London so easily, I didn’t care what it took to get to that show.
I bought tickets off of StubHub for quite literally five times the price of the original ticket. I originally had no one to go with, until I met someone in the Caffè Nero next to my work that complimented my 5SOS tote bag that I had gotten at their April show in Dublin. Maddie and I bonded and a month later, we were heading to London, which in hindsight, could have gone absolutely horribly.
The frenzy around the One Night Only gig was insane - twitter names followed with ‘IS GOING TO ONO’ and ‘IS NOT GOING TO ONO’ speculated about the set list, to the disappointment of the many fans who didn't have tickets. All I’ll say is that there was no empty seat. Not one. Part of it felt like going into the Hunger Games - the sheer intensity of the excitement for the new era, the new album, the new songs, the gig. I mentioned in a previous article, that when I was standing in the queue for 5SOS’s show in April, that I resembled a rabid pug… but I was like a rabid pug on crack standing, waiting for them to come on stage with the orchestra and choir.
The one perk of the seating was that you didn’t have to queue. I had spent six hours queuing for them in Dublin, but at the Royal Albert Hall, I went out to lunch, had a nice glass of wine, and walked through Hyde Park before queuing for the merch stand. We were first in the queue, first pick for whatever we wanted. I spent less than I anticipated, but it was in pounds and I was too scared to do the conversion. The merch stand sold out less than an hour later.
The doors opened three hours before the show. We sat by the doors to the concert hall, listening to the soundcheck through a small crack. It was muffled, but we could hear classics like ‘Jet Black Heart’ and ‘Outer Space / Carry On’ and new tracks that we didn’t recognise. Maddie and I sat there, staring at each other with shit-eating grins.
The doors opened and we sat at our seats, taking breaks to head up to the bar, enjoying the feeling of being somewhere we spent so much money to be at. Before I knew it, the lights were dimmed and my ears began to crackle as they always do at a 5SOS show, the screaming absolutely insane. I genuinely have hearing damage because of their gigs (bring ear plugs, kids). I cried during ‘Jet Black Heart’, drunkenly sang along to ‘Red Desert’, screamed when Luke Hemmings’ fiancée Sierra Deaton, who co-wrote ‘Older’, came out on stage and sang with him (her voice was angelic), and stood there in awe of their final song, off of their new album, ‘Bad Omens’. I truly can’t process the blur of emotions I went through, it went by so quickly.
The choir was phenomenal, giving a new depth to harmonies that 5SOS always tend to do so well, standing above the 5SOS like some kind of angelic figures. The most notable songs, where the choir were absolutely fantastic, were during ‘Bad Omens’, the last track of the night, and ‘Youngblood’, known for its harmonies. The orchestra was small, but added emphasis to the emotional, heart-wrenching songs like ‘Outer Space / Carry On’, a song originally written with an orchestra. It was a beautifully curated show, but I will admit, it was shorter than I would have liked. It was only an hour - with only 7 songs off the album, which had 19. The boys had their typical banter, but the show felt rushed. That could also be me wishing that I could’ve spent the rest of my life in that moment.
That being said, it was pretty monumental, seeing 5SOS in Royal Albert Hall, a venue that so many bands dream of. And back when 5SOS first started, they would busk outside the Hall, in Hyde Park. It’s fascinating to see the growth and success that 5SOS have found over the last decade.
Maddie and I got lost in London after the gig, taking the lyrics “Lost here in London” from ‘Outer Space / Carry On’ a little too seriously. We ended up having to spend 30 quid on a taxi home from Lord knows where, and we never quite figured out where we were or how we got there. But, by the time we had gotten in the door, the album was out and we sparked up a rollie, drunkenly giggling outside of the shipping container that was our hotel room. We settled into bed afterwards with some chocolate, Maddie laying at the opposite end of my bed and put in our headphones. We hit play at the same time and listened as the album unfolded in front of us.
‘Complete Mess’, the first track on the album, was to be expected. A synth-forward introduction to the album, filled with harmonies and a continuous guitar lick throughout the song. ‘Easy For You To Say’ was played live, but it was never officially released. The lyrics describe a tumultuous relationship due to one partner’s rocky mental state. The punching guitar from Irwin is consistent throughout the album, and the song sets up the slightly upbeat pace for the rest of the album.
‘Bad Omens’ left me with my mouth wide open and goosebumps. I’m a sucker for ethereal, melancholic ascension in bridges which the song captures quite perfectly with a violin that’s distorted by synth, and builds up with a deep bass drum as the band harmonises. ‘Me Myself & I’ was next, an upbeat song about self sabotage with a fun guitar melody and a modern pop chorus and second verse. It reminded me of ‘Who Do You Love’, a song by the Chainsmokers and 5SOS. ‘Take My Hand (Joshua Tree Version)’ was not my favourite - I think the lyrics are mature and beautiful, but the actual pace and execution of the song left me wanting more. It’s grown on me since I’ve first heard it, but I’m still not a massive fan. ‘CAROUSEL’ was a beautiful song that I related to more than I’d care to admit. I loved the deep, fast drum track, the dreamy synth, Hemmings’ low voice, meaningful lyrics and the gradual build of dynamics throughout the song.
‘Older’ featuring Sierra Deaton is an ode to old 50s style love songs that they had started writing together during COVID, and which was pushed to a finish by Clifford. The piano is beautiful, but Deaton’s vocal capabilities are unmatched on the track. ’HAZE’ is a close second with its punchy drums, loose guitar strums and a beautiful appearance of Hood’s vocals with a fun, anti drop first half of the chorus. Irwin gets involved in the bridge, adding another layer of intensity to the song. ‘You Don’t Go To Parties’ is on my top five off the album, the thudding bass and kick drum working perfectly to create a fun, quirky beat. Hood makes another appearance, his smooth tone fitting the song well.
‘BLENDER’ opens with a stanky bass line from Hood, a strong 80s synth in the pre-chorus. The song rides completely on the bass line, a clear sound emphasis on it throughout the song. There’s an even bigger influence of synth later in the song, showing how comfortable Clifford got while producing the album. ‘Caramel’ feels like ‘CALM’ (5SOS’s 4th release) and ‘Youngblood’ had a love child, adorned with a dreamy melody, catchy guitars and a half-breakdown at the end of each chorus. ‘Best Friends’ is one of the most fun songs that 5SOS have ever written. There’s a sound of distorted strings, or synth, in the background throughout the entire track. And 5SOS adopt their old pop-punk roots in the chorus, Irwin’s old drumming style centre stage. Clifford’s vocals fit perfectly in the second chorus, the bittersweet lyrics about maturing and friendships.
‘Bleach’ was cleverly put afterwards, showing the maturity and growth from old 5SOS and new 5SOS. Their lyrics have grown with them, using more analogies and symbolism in their songs. It’s a well paced, slow song with echoing guitars and harmonies. ‘Red Line’ has a beautiful tone, more upbeat than ‘Bleach’, but still well paced. There are acoustic guitars throughout the song, Clifford chiming with quiet but impactful guitar licks. ‘Moodswings’ is another favourite, Hemmings’ falsetto perfect throughout the track, Clifford’s backing vocals accompanying it well. Irwin has a simple, but addictive beat throughout the song. The bridge is a melancholic melody - a buildup to a vague halftime breakdown from Irwin, bittersweet words, and a gorgeous synth in the background.
‘Flatline’, another fun, upbeat, well executed song. Hemmings’ falsetto makes another appearance, with a chunky bass line from Hood and small guitar work from Clifford. ‘Emotions’ is a fan favourite, but I’m not sure where I stand on it. Clifford sounds amazing on the track, singing the entire song, with a small addition of synth throughout. But I struggle with the second chorus. I’m not sure the beat and bass work with the melody. I tend to like the song more when the second chorus is finished, but I think that it sticks out too much and creates a disconnect on the album. ‘Bloodhound’ is a little funky, sexual lyrics that don’t feel too sexual, a good build up to the chorus. The drop in the beginning really jump starts the song. The chorus is catchy and danceable. And finally, ‘TEARS!’, one of the best songs on the album. The bass thuds in the beginning, Irwin’s dark voice sings about sadness and subduing that sadness with substances. Hood joins in during the pre-chorus, but Irwin’s vocals remain the star of the show. The bass gets even funkier, and the end of the chorus thuds in your chest, getting more and more intense as the song goes on. The end of each chorus is absolutely stunning, the intensity and emotion in the music is incredible. It was an excellent way to end the album.
5SOS5 showcases so many different styles - adopting 80s synth, modern pop-rock guitar licks (Michael Clifford’s specialty), and funky bass lines. But, the biggest difference in this album is the lyrical maturity that Hemmings, Hood, Irwin and Clifford have taken on. The four of them wrote the album themselves, only really having outside help when it came to mastering and mixing the record. Their writing styles have changed over the last decade, as one would hope, adopting a much more internalised, reflective experience, instead of typical love songs that they’ve written over their career. And Michael Clifford actually produced a large majority of the album.
There’s a certain attention to detail that I haven’t really heard on a 5SOS record before, which shows me that Clifford really put everything into the album, never missing a single detail, making sure that everything in the record was there for a reason. There are pieces of strings throughout so many of the songs, tucked away in the background. It’s something special - listening to a song, and each time, there’s something new that you didn’t hear the last time. I found that with nearly every single track on the record - there was always a harmony I didn’t notice at first, a hidden vocal track, small fluctuations in the riffs… the attention to detail made it an album that I love.
I also felt that 5SOS5 had a concept, an atmosphere. It genuinely feels like an album that you would sit and listen to, by yourself, in some corner of the world, far from home. It feels like the tale of young 20 somethings, maturing and developing in ways you couldn’t anticipate. Most of all, the atmosphere on the album is safe, comforting, a bit like sitting in front of a warm fireplace with a friend who understands you. It’s ethereal in its aura, meticulous in its production, beautiful in its completeness.
I think it’s my album of the year. And One Night Only? A memory for life.