Rolo Tomassi

Rolo Tomassi at Electric Ballroom review | Britain’s most underrated rockers reaffirm their brilliance

Over nearly two decades, Rolo Tomassi have amassed an ardent following without a modicum of mainstream attention. At their largest show to date, the Sheffielders indulge in the fruits of their labour, welcoming 1,500 loyalists to an evening of immaculate emotion.


Towards the end of ‘A Flood of Light’, Rolo Tomassi singer Eva Korman has tears in her eyes. You would too if you were her. Korman has fronted this band since she co-founded it in 2005 with her big brother, keyboardist James Spence. Over the ensuing 18 years they’ve been consistently composing some of the UK’s most inventive rock music, yet the mainstream has never granted them any kind of breakthrough.

All of that underappreciated toil has earned them this apex, though: Rolo are playing their biggest gig to date, and 1,500 diehards are joining in as the vocalist croons, “But you are there, always”. It’s a moment so powerful that, the second it’s over, the band have to pause the show in awe.

How Rolo Tomassi have been so undervalued for so long is one of the great mysteries of modern rock. They’re songwriters that juggle genres – pop, hardcore, metal, shoegaze, post-rock, prog… – without sacrificing the crystalline hooks radio DJs demand. They’re road warriors whose tour bus rarely sits still. And they’ve got at least two exceptional albums to their name. 2018’s Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It hypnotised by gradually drifting from the ambient to the apoplectic. Then, follow-up Where Myth Becomes Memory proved almost as brilliant by doing the opposite, its episodic anthems hurling you from one soundscape to the next without warning.

Rolo Tomassi

On top of all of that, this band’s concerts are excellent. When Eva, James and their comrades arrive on stage at the Electric Ballroom, they serenade the masses with Where Myth Becomes Memory opener ‘Almost Always’; a six-minute serving of shoegazing post-rock, Eva’s pristine singing juxtaposed by the walls of guitar noise behind it.

What immediately follows, however, is ‘Cloaked’: a groove metal rampage that launches both the band and the mosh pit before them into a frenzy. The frontwoman enigmatically dances, arms twirling and heels spinning, between her bouts of venomous screaming as spotlights flare in time with drummer Al Pott’s polyrhythms.

The remainder of the night is on a sliding scale between those extremes. Time Will Die… single ‘Rituals’ introduces a melodically sung chorus and subsequently reinvents it as a snarling tirade, while blasting percussion is cast against twinkling keys and somehow makes sense. ‘Aftermath’ is pop-punk that forgot to take its antidepressants – clean guitars build and build before the song crescendos in one final, heart-wrenching singalong – then ‘Mutual Ruin’ thrashes London despite being built around the rhythm of a single, repeating piano key.

It’s ‘Contretemps’ and the aforementioned ‘A Flood of Light’ that encapsulate this band at their best, though. Clocking in at eight minutes apiece, the pair seamlessly flow between every style in the Rolo canon, from radiance to rage. The prog rock scope only amplifies the uniqueness on display, to the point where it’s not a stretch to say that no other artist has written anything like this duo of epics.

For all the confidence Rolo clearly have in how they craft their songs, there’s an introversion to the way they behave in-between them. Eva has been the first to admit in interviews that she’s a shy speaker, and that fact certainly presents itself this evening, with James talking to the audience more often than not.

That said, even then, visits to the mic are few and far between, because what more needs to be said about this lot that the sheer spectacle doesn’t express by itself? Thanks to their genre-splicing tunes, emotionally immaculate hooks and dazzling showmanship, Rolo could be playing to 1,500 or 15,000 people and still be the most underrated rockers in the country right now.

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