@ Newcastle o2 Academy II, February 6 2011

Alternative rock, emo rock, pop rock – call it what you want but this stuff sells. Just ask Hayley Williams, Jared Leto or Gerard Way. And it’s a fact certainly not lost on rock label Fueled By Ramen as starlets VersaEmerge are finding their feet on the opposite end of the scale to label mates Paramore.

For a band to have such a strikingly similar backstory to the rock giants, VE hold a steely determination to be more than that slightly critical view connotates. Not that it’s a bad thing to be compared to one of the most commercially successful bands of the modern era. That a band should be victims of genre crime before being allowed a chance to forge their own reputation is down to cynics and lazy critics that take the ‘judge first, listen later’ mentality. But I digress.

In  a crammed and youthful Academy II a hardy bunch of the band’s proclaimed Versa Vultures perched eagerly awaiting their night’s prey. Screaming at the mere mention of Versa’s name, the fact that the band’s freshman effort wouldn’t officially drop until the following day, made the dedication all the more remarkable.

Performing essentially an EP of their debut album, the theatricality evident in their sound manages to veer from tender to smash mouth in the blink of an eye. Fixed At Zero, Stranger and Fire all roused decent reactions from the teenyboppers in attendance.

Lead vocalist Sierra Kusterbeck manages not only to hold some impressive notes but holds a rock persona that’s more than easy on the eye. But she never strays into overplaying it. She comes to the party to play, but to play hard, where so many other female vocalists fall by the wayside.

There’s something about the band that makes a straight Paramore comparison redundant, whether it’s a little bit more of an edge or a feeling of unity, there is huge potential for competition here. In a couple of albums’ time it’s worth a bet that Versa could be right up there with the best. Paramore’s twin this is not, more like that cousin that no-one saw coming…

Andy Spoors