Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Day To Remember - Wembley Arena, London, 27/01/17

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I missed openers Moose Blood due to "lack of staff" causing train delays, but thankfully I made it to my seat moments before Neck Deep took to the stage. 
Neck Deep took over the world in 2016. Starting the year with an international co-headline tour with State Champs, they filled it with festival appearances in more countries than I could count and ended it with a main support slot for Pierce The Veil on a two month tour.
All of that adventuring has caused almost a year to pass since the last time the Wrexham quintet played on UK soil. The moment they bounced out onto the stage it was apparent that a huge chunk of the crowd were there to welcome the boys back home, the roar that erupted for them rivaling the one that the headliners received later in the night.
It's impossible not to have fun during a Neck Deep set. Their music is paint by numbers pop-punk, but their personalities give the band the universal appeal that's helping them break out all over the world. I've missed listening to vocalist Ben Barlow's humorous banter, cheesily asking the crowd "Did Moose Blood make you Blush?" with a proud grin on his face. He almost gave the audience a collective heart attack when he screamed Jeremy McKinnon's name in the middle of 'Serpents', then giggled to himself at the end of the song, asking "Who actually thought Jeremy McKinnon was gonna come out right them? I trolled you all!".
It was a special night for the band, too. Ben shared that they all had family members backstage, joking that he didn't find the crowd scary at all but "somewhere my mum is here, and that scares the shit out of me". Despite his joke it was an emotional moment: Ben's father Terry passed away last year and he was wearing a Terry Barlow Records charity t-shirt at the show, meaning he was at the forefront of every fan's mind.
There's no way he couldn't have been proud of the band for this show, though. Mosh pits broke out during every song - except for the acoustic 'A Part of Me', the only older song that the band played, which had the loudest crowd chant that I've ever experienced - and the audience were constantly surging forward, trying to get closer to the action.
It was obvious that this was going to be a match made in tour heaven: Jeremy actually helped write most of 'Life's Not Out To Get You' (probably the reason the set was so skewed towards tracks from the newer release!) so the bands share a lot of fans. I believe Neck Deep easily could have been main support at this show. 

Gold Steps
Lime St.
Kali Ma
Rock Bottom
A Part of Me
Can't Kick Up The Roots

New Found Glory are a band that I've rapidly fallen out of love with. Something was off when I saw their set at Reading festival two years ago, and despite the fact that they're legends - they're celebrating their twentieth year as a band, which doesn't happen too often! - they just aren't my cup of tea anymore.
A lot of this comes down to Jordan Pundik's distinctively nasally vocal. It's an acquired taste. I was familiar with most of the songs in their set before the show, but I was struggling to distinguish which was which: their set had an almost psychedelic quality, the songs flowing in together and seeming never-ending, making me wonder when it was going to be time for A Day To Remember.
Based on the lack of crowd participation when he held the microphone out, it seemed as though they were fighting a losing battle. Compared to the explosive reaction that relative newbies Neck Deep received, New Found Glory should have had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand, but it just didn't happen. Their more well-known songs got people moving ('All Downhill From Here', 'Hit or Miss' and 'Kiss Me' in particular, as well as closer 'My Friends Over You' which never disappoints) but the majority of their set fell flat, putting a dampener on the evening.
It pains me to say that, because all four of them were so grateful to be there and so thankful to the crowd for watching their set. Normally Jordan and guitarist/backing vocalist Chad Gilbert (also known as Mr. Hayley Williams) are the only ones who talk on stage, but they forced their microphones on bassist Ian Grushka and drummer Cyrus Bolooki, who both expressed gratitude from the bottom of their hearts.
Chad gave a very impassioned speech regarding following your dreams, announcing "Whenever shit gets hard, don't give up. Success is based on your own terms. You're doings things for yourself and not for people who think they suck or they don't suck. Fuck what everyone thinks apart from yourself and your friends and your family". If the band are powered by this mindset it's no surprise that they're about to release their ninth album, and I genuinely hope there are many more: it's refreshing to see a band fighting against adversity rather than buckling under pressure and calling it a day.
That being said, they did perform 'Making Me Miserable' - the soon to be released first single from their upcoming album 'Makes Me Sick' - and it shows promise. Compared to the ceaseless generic punk sound encompassing the majority of their back catalogue, the new material is more upbeat, with a fresh sound that breaths life into the band. It's reminiscent of their seventh album, 'Radiosurgery', and if the rest of the album has this vibe it'll be very enjoyable.
After this show the band announced that they'd be returning to the UK in October, playing six of their albums in full at various shows across the country. I'm not going to be getting tickets to any of the dates, but if you're a big fan don't sleep on it: these are certainly going to sell fast.

All Downhill From Here
Hit or Miss
Something I Call Personality
Hold My Hand
Happy Being Miserable
Kiss Me cover
Dressed To Kill
Vicious Love
My Friends Over You

The last time I saw A Day To Remember was at Reading festival back in 2014. Things in camp ADTR went quiet for a couple of years, but that changed back in September with the release of their sixth album, 'Bad Vibrations'.
At the time of release it was labelled their "best album since 'Homesick'", and having experienced the tracks in a live environment I can confirm that's the truth. I resisted listening to the album before the show, only being familiar with 'Paranoid' and 'Naivety' out of the new tracks they played on the night, but I was completely absorbed in the set despite not knowing a large chunk of the material.
That's the sign of a good band. If they can perform the songs you love perfectly and can blow you away with songs you've never heard before, they can do anything.
The lyrics on the new album are overly repetitive - the aforementioned 'Naivety' featuring the line "Where's my naviety?" eight times, and 'We Got This' repeating the entire chorus six times - but musically they show a huge progression. 'Bad Vibrations' is one of the heaviest songs they've released in at least five years, and both 'Exposed' and 'Justified' completely redeem the band after the uninspired 'Common Courtesy'.
It's not better than 'Homesick', but it's certainly a step in the right direction. The band seemed to be losing themselves for a while there - perhaps due to the recently resolved legal battle with Victory Records, a struggle which lasted for over five years - but they're finally back.
This was A Day To Remember's biggest ever London show. They've played Alexandra Palace twice - a surprise acoustic set at Warped UK back in 2013 and a headline show the following year - but the time had come for them to take the step to Wembley Arena.
Vocalist Jeremy McKinnon knows how to control an arena crowd. With the words 'CIRCLE PIT' flashing on the screens behind them before 'Paranoid' started, Jeremy's encouraging screams whipped the crowd up into a frenzy. The reaction was instantaneous, but the energy didn't peak at the start of the set. During 'Right Back At It Again' Jeremy shouted "I wanna see as many people crowd surfing as humanely possible!", taking it one step further towards the end of the night by encouraging people to go "crowd surfing on a crowd surfer" throughout 'Naivety' - a maneuver that involves someone crowd surfing and one of their friends standing on top of them, attempting to use them like a surfboard. Sounds pretty impossible, right? While the majority of people just ended up crowd surfing regularly, I spotted one intrepid fan making the journey across the crowd on top of his friend - they didn't get very far before being helped down, but it looked awesome while it lasted!
It's only been a couple of weeks since the tenth anniversary of 'For Those Who Have Heart', and they celebrated by playing 'Fast Forward To 2012' - a fan favourite from the album, but one that hasn't been regularly included in their live shows for the past few years. This was obviously a show aimed at promoting the new album, but this was a lovely way to say thank you to the fans who've supported them through the past ten years and while continue to follow them in the future.
'Homesick' is my favourite album, so I was overjoyed that they played more from that album than any other in the set. Finally getting to hear 'Have Faith In Me' live was amazing, and based on how loud the audience were chanting the words back to Jeremy it's obvious that the song still resonates deeply despite being almost eight years old.
My personal favourite moment of the set was the start of the encore. The band went off at the end of the main set to allow the crowd to chant for the encore to start, and when guitarist Neil Westfall appeared on stage before Jeremy he quipped "I'll play this goddamn song solo, I swear to god!".
When Jeremy eventually did appear, holding an acoustic guitar, it was obvious that they were going to be opening the encore with 'If It Means A Lot To You', the closing track from 'Homesick' and their most understated song to date. It was a beautiful rendition, the audience singing every word back to the band and lighting up the arena in a memorable and poignant moment. I've been to a lot of shows, but I'm going to remember that experience forever.
Finishing the encore with the stereotypical pop-punk 'All Signs Point To Lauderdale' (I HATE THIS TOWN, IT'S SO WASHED UP!) and riotous 'The Downfall of Us All', they definitely went out with a bang. This was my first time seeing an A Day To Remember headline set, but it's made it impossible to pass up the opportunity in the future. It's also revived my love for a band who I've lost touch with - I'm going to be listening to 'Bad Vibrations' on repeat for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Highway's Thinking About The End
2nd Sucks
Right Back At It Again
I'm Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of
It's Complicated
Fast Forward To 2012
We Got This
Bad Vibrations
My Life For Hire
Have Faith In Me
All I Want
The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle
If It Means A Lot To You
All Signs Point To Lauderdale
The Downfall of Us All

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