Stepping out to support the recent release of their third album The Peace and the Panic, Welsh pop-punks Neck Deep took over Glasgow’s O2 Academy on a typically dreary Sunday night. The queue snaked around the building as a larger-than-usual crowd opted to show up early to catch the first support band.
That band were local lads Woes, kicking off the evening just ten minutes after doors opened. Full of energy and clearly excited to be there, they ripped through a set featuring Winter Sun and new single Losing Time. A cover of Smash Mouth’s All Star was thrown in – apparently as the result of losing a bet – and gave the crowd something to sing along to if they weren’t already familiar with the band. Frontman DJ quickly got the crowd on board and suitably hyped for the rest of the night.
Real Friends dwell in the sad side of pop-punk that’s almost emo but with better melodies. They do this beautifully but it did mean they couldn’t deliver the same level of energy as the opening band and they lacked stage presence too. In a more intimate venue they would shine with their understated performance and could deliver an atmospheric set. Summer was a highlight of the set list and it’s no coincidence that’s the bounciest song they played. Real Friends are a great band but unfortunately this setting wasn’t the best chance for them to prove that.
The anticipation from the crowd was undeniable as they waited for As It Is to come on stage. Their sunny pop-punk (heavy on the pop) was a massive hit with the core crowd front and centre but it was at times difficult to understand why. Frontman Patty Walters’ high vocals grated and his trying-to-be-sexy stage persona was just cringey. The youngest teens in the crowd couldn’t get enough but it’s clear their appeal has an age limit. That said, Soap was excellently delivered and the rousing sing along to Dial Tones which closed out their set felt like it came from a headline act.
Right before Neck Deep’s set began, Jonny Boucher – founder of the charity Hope For the Day – took to the stage to discuss mental health and suicide. He encouraged open conversations and directed the crowd to their merch booth where they provide zines and other information on dealing with mental health issues. The crowd were very receptive to him and it was impressive to see such a frank discussion taking place at a rock show.
The curtain dropped and Neck Deep burst on stage to one of the new album’s highlights Happy Judgement Day followed by the excellent Lime St. Frontman Ben Barlow, along with guitarists Sam Bowden and Matt West jumped across the stage, barely staying still for a second while bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans took a more laid-back approach. Barlow seemed eager to get as close to the crowd as possible and they clearly felt the same way as a wave of crowd surfers lurched forward immediately.
This tour saw the band playing some of the tracks from their new album for the first time, and Barlow remarked that Glasgow gave Parachute its best reception so far. This album has seen them take some steps away from the straight-up pop-punk of their previous record and experiment with some more mainstream sounds, a move which always runs the risk of alienating older fans. Tonight showed that the risk payed off though, as the surprising Brit-pop influences on Parachute were just as well-received as the most pop-punk track on the album, Motion Sickness.
The setlist was very well put together, with a great balance between old and new songs to keep all fans happy. They alternated between albums often to keep things mixed up and it worked perfectly.
Kali Ma and most recent single In Bloom were highlights of the night; the former making the room feel like it was shaking from the force of everyone jumping at once and the latter prompting a massively passionate singalong.
Barlow’s vocals are stronger than ever, but he still struggles to hit the low notes in Rock Bottom and didn’t even attempt the iconic “I’m so unappealing” line in Part of Me. Thankfully, he also didn’t try to take on Sam Carter’s screaming verse in Don’t Wait, with an unknown crew member instead doing a surprisingly good job of filling the spot.
The acoustic portion of the evening saw Barlow play Head to the Ground alone before being joined by Thorpe-Evans for Wish You Were Here. This was a poignant moment, considering the pair co-wrote the song after both losing their fathers and a close friend in between the past two albums. The emotion resonated throughout the room and the pits stopped briefly to take in the magnitude of the lyrics.
The closing track of The Peace and the Panic also closed out the gig as Where Do We Go When We Go proved to be the perfect soundtrack to the biggest pit of the night. As Neck Deep left the stage, fans hung around longer than usual as though they were reluctant to accept the show was over. The energy the band bring to their gigs is their biggest asset and is helping keep up the momentum from the album release. They are dominating the UK pop-punk scene right now and tonight showed why – maybe we can do it just as good as the Americans after all?