*** RE-UPLOAD ***
Lineup: Neck Deep & State Champs & Creeper
Venue: O2 Institute Birmingham
Right so this time round we won’t go so far into detailing every action in the gig since we want to keep the content rolling over all topics; don’t want to get hung up on one type of segment. So with that knowledge in mind, what did Music Season think of Neck Deep’s first show of their new tour?
First thing’s first, getting to venue there are some qualms I want to iron out. Opening the gates 15 minutes late with a queue that stretched around 4 blocks is absolutely ridiculous for a professional venue leaving the majority of fans left in the cold for far too long. Not just that, but having your acts continue at normal time whilst everything else is running late made me feel like I was already losing bang for my buck. When gates open at 7 on tickets, then I expect to be in at 7:20 at the latest, not 7:55. Having four people work the gates with that many people coming meant that people were going to the local pub, buying a beer, having a bag of chips, all in the time it took to move one space. It was a massive showing of poor professionalism. Having said that, it did mean I got to miss half of Creeper’s set that turned out to be an absolute blessing…
If I were to sum up Creeper in one word it would be forgettable. They were offensively pop punk, a line I’m using more and more the more this genre dilutes. Their emotional lyrics (sang in the wrong pitch) about first love made me laugh rather than tear up and their general set was yawn-inducing. The lead guitarist was particularly bad spending half the time out of tune and the other half playing guitar like a Lil-Wayne knock-off. I have been in bands, my friends have been in bands, my friends family friends have been in bands that are twice the act these guys put on; they sounded like a Mayday Parade tribute kit truck having a car crash. I’ve seen some terrible openers for big bands but these guys are up there with one of the most pathetic; I have no niceties to exchange.
So when that dreary mess limped off stage, who comes on next? State Champs… Now if you had read our prior review of State Champs new album, you would know how I felt about this act… I think if cliche took a human form, it would be these guys. Full of energy concentrated on show rather than instrumental capability, they sounded like an impersonation of themselves. However having said that, they were better than what I thought (and they kept their set short which is always a bonus). Their levels were so unbalanced however that I couldn’t differentiate one song from the other, at all, not in one way. When ‘Elevated’ came on (my personal only favourite by State Champs) it took me until half way through the song to even tell it was that very song! Again the guitars were out of tune, the kick drum was too ‘bassy’ and loud, the lyrics were un-decipherable and it just felt like another mess. Again I re-illustrate that they were better than I expected but then that is really no statement.
After three pints were consumed and a certain liquid confidence was introduced, I was finally ready for a band I genuinely enjoy to hit the stage and blow me away… My readiness began to fade however when I have to wait 40-50 minutes for a band to come on. The reason why? To put a big picture up of painted fire… If you can’t tell by this point, my patience was thin. Then when they did come on, it was like a teenage scream fest with young girls swooning everywhere at Ben Barlow’s best John Connor (Terminator if you didn’t get the reference) tribute.
They kicked off the set well with some popular new songs mixed in with their golden oldies. Crushing Grief in particular was excellent and sounded pretty record similar. The levels were still massively unbalanced with the guitars whispering over a brash and thumpy bass; this is not a compliment. Dani Abasi playing the drums in time would help every now and then but I can’t fault him too much because I do think he is the lynch pin in the band; he’s certainly an excellent drummer. I was impressed with Ben Barlow’s consistent note hitting for the most part because he has a particular reputation of being tone deaf live… A reputation that was regained in the second half of the set. Singing one in four lyrics, Ben Barlow might as well not of been there since the audience carried him for the most part. I have no idea what the sound guy was doing either because trying to hear any lyric pronunciation was damn near impossible. Then they did the usual ‘fake leave’ three quarters of the way through to try and encourage an inevitable encore (encores at this point are about as rare as a cloudy day in Luton) and funnily enough, they still messed it up! They left the stage and I must of counted to three elephants before they re-entered, what was the literal point of that!? Just continue your set if you’re going to waste everyone’s time that blatantly!
Ben Barlow returned to the stage with an acoustic guitar and everyone knew what was happening next. Two solid renditions of modern classics, ‘A Part Of Me’ and ‘Head To The Ground’. Though these were great for a fun singalong, I have a big issue here, and it comes with the label ‘pop punk’. It really hit me at this point. I do not get what is punk about any of this. Singing an acoustic ballad about love to an academy full of teenage girls wearing overpriced skater clothes with spotlight lighting, is not punk in the slightest. If this is classed as edgy then the modern butchers knife must be like hitting meat with rolling pin. I reiterate that the renditions were solid, they were great, but this is paradoxical to it’s own beginnings. Punk’s hate the conventional system that oppresses them and they choose to revolt against those that function rather than those that graft, now does that sound along the lines of an acoustic love song? No, flat out no. At this point, modern pop punk is just glorified pop with guitars and nothing more.
The rest of the encore was pretty solid (even though Ben’s voice sounded like a burning Slitheen) and it was good enough to warrant paying for the gig. However, there is another but, what the hell happened to their final song. Can’t Kick Up The Roots is perhaps the most important song in Neck Deep’s track list and boy did they screw this up. The guitars were so out of tune that I looked at the very few metal heads in the audience and saw eyes rolling out of skulls; that’s not an overstatement. Maybe if the guitarists stood still for one moment to tune, then they’d earn some respect as musicians rather than dancers; they were really missing Lloyd here. Plus, the bassist had his guitar obnoxiously low by this point and looked like a small child on a stage full of hormonal, bouncy teens. This final song was pretty pathetic and just soured the entire evening for me. What hurt more was hearing any of the members speak. They slipped from a northern accent, to a welsh accent, to a Californian accent; it just looked like they were trying way too hard. They are the biggest band in the genre by this point and yet still they don’t even have enough individuality to obtain a voice. It was like a bunch of fake Tom Delonge’s were trying to pronounce different words in different languages.
If you noticed throughout this review, you would be able to spot how often I used the terms ‘impersonation, tribute and fake’. It sounds like I’m being a YouTube commenter now right? Unfortunately far from it. It felt like three bands tried their best to re-invent Blink 182, Sum 41 and The Offspring on stage and even their best was pretty rubbish. They made Alien Ant Farm and INME from earlier in the year look like Vivaldi and Bach. For a gig to be so shaky that I question a music genre that I used to love is almost unbelievable, but it happened. So this time round I’m going to individually address each band with a rating, because that’s only fair.
Creeper: 2/10 – I’ve seen folk pub bands with a more polished sound, my dog has more angst at squirrels than these guys have at anything.
State Champs: 4/10 – The levels were all out of whack, the tuning was terrible, yet somehow they still blew my expectations… Says something doesn’t it…
Neck Deep: 5.5/10 – Showed a lot of energy and had a couple decent numbers but overall nowhere near good enough to warrant a headline spot.
The Piggin’ O2 Venue: 2/10 – I’ve talked to trainee scaffolder’s more thoughtful than these employees.