Saying it’s been a whirlwind year for Neck Deep is more than an understatement. Between signing to Hopeless Records, spending the summer on Warped Tour, supporting their heroes Blink-182, releasing their debut album to critical acclaim and entering the studio to record their second with a certain Jeremy McKinnon all in 12 months, the Wrexham boys have found time to return home to Blighty for a run of dates and bring some of the future shining stars of pop-punk from around the globe with them.
Openers Trophy Eyes are by far the heftiest band on tonight’s bill and make their presence well and truly known. Pockets of kids in the know bleat every word back at vocalist John Floreini as he ‘blehs’ and moshes his way through the band’s high-octane collection of poppy hardcore jams. (3/5)
Coming out to the tune of ‘Blame Canada’ from South Park, Seaway follows with a crisp clean set of heartbreak bangers. New songs ‘Alberta’ and ‘Your Best Friend’ stand tall against ‘Keep Your Stick On The Ice’ and clear fan favourite ‘Sabrina The Teenage Bitch’ and the band looks thoroughly humbled to be greeted so warmly. (4/5)
Knuckle Puck receives a hero’s welcome as they walk on, and deservedly so. Their shirt-tugging brand of pop-punk has been craved on these shores for a long while and fans glide over the barriers with finger pointed high in celebration. New songs ‘Oak Street’ and ‘Why Would You Care’ get sing-alongs just as loud as established jams ‘Give Up’ and ‘No Good’ making it a very successful first time across the pond for the Illinois boys. (4/5)
Just over 2 years ago, Neck Deep played their first shows in support of Me Vs Hero to rooms of about 200. Fast-forward to the present day and the band that stand on stage now are a completely different outfit in terms of quality, confidence and overall showmanship. Opening with ‘Losing Teeth’ from debut album ‘Wishful Thinking’ the mood for the evening is set almost immediately with every set of lungs in the room giving out and not a soul standing still. The fact that Neck Deep have struck such a deep chord with the pop punk community is a credit both to their infectiously relatable song writing, and also more than anything them staying true to their roots of just being 5 guys doing what they love.
’Tables Turned’ follows with the expression on vocalist Ben Barlow’s face one of disbelief and pride as bodies fly over the barrier before ‘Damsel In Distress’ and a quick 1-2 of ‘Zoltar Speaks’ and ‘Say What You Want’ get a rapturous reception. At no point during the band’s time on stage does the energy remotely die down. The room is constantly electric with not a single face looking blue. Everybody has been waiting a long time for the band’s homecoming after them spending an age overseas and every second is being savoured. This is a party where everyone is on the same page and having the time of their lives, band included.
”There are dudes selling knock off merch outside. That’s awesome” laughs Ben before launching into ‘Growing Pains’ with the youthful exuberance the song represents. The mood of the evening then takes a shift and things are brought back into perspective with anthem ‘A Part Of Me’ being dedicated to a certain fan that cannot be in attendance. Their heartbreaking absence is made up for by every voice in the venue screaming every word with all that they have. The volume and passion demonstrated by their fans is part of what makes Neck Deep such a special band. In an industry where pop punk acts are being churned out in their dozens, to capture the imagination of so many is something that doesn’t come around very often and when it does it really is a sight to behold.
Rounding things off with a shirt tugging ‘What Did You Expect?’ and sentimental ‘Candour’, Neck Deep have delivered a serious victory here. The band has continued to exceed any expectation that had been placed on their shoulders by miles and become a more confident and tighter unit as a result. It’s easy to forget that in terms of time Neck Deep are still in their infancy as a band but with as many standout songs as they have and possessing a following as dedicated and connected as they have the band are teetering on the verge of being even bigger a deal than they already are, whether they are ready for it or not. (4.5/5)