As the band who have spent the best part of two years showing the world that Britain’s new breed of pop-punk is actually something finally worth shouting about, the anticipation surrounding a tour on home soil from Neck Deep is palpable. Although billed as a co-headliner with their American allies in State Champs, this long-sought-after run of shows is Neck Deep’s for the taking.
Ohio upstarts Light Years hold it down for the Northeastern emo province with a moodier, more mature sound befitting their burgeoning native scene. The hooks are huge and the choruses are hardly lacking in bounce, but their growth feels stunted by cheap humour between songs.
The gothic charm that Creeper inherently exude is seldom seen on a bill of this nature, but the callous-hearted misfits were born for bigger things. The Tim Burton-esque majesty may take more of a backseat than usual tonight as the Southampton sextet cut their fangs in larger rooms, but their high-energy punk rock still works a sinister treat.
From the second they bound onstage to a teasing of John Cena’s—sorry, JOHN CENAAA’s—entrance music, State Champs’ set is a smackdown. Something that their fun-loving frontman Derek Discanio takes several opportunities to openly admire is that this is merely the New Yorkers’ fourth trip to Blighty, but as they explode into life with ‘Secrets’, the clamorous response that they are met with gives Derek full bragging rights.
It’s arguable that State Champs’ approach to the genre (AKA more sugary than a mouthful of sherbet) has made universal acclaim a tough nut to crack, but Discanio and co. dive headfirst into their set with the unrelenting attitude of a band with as much bite as bark. The pacier ‘Perfect Score’ leaves pop-punk purists feeling knocked for six, while ‘All You Are Is History’ and ‘Elevated’ prove that State Champs are at the top of their game.
“If you couldn’t tell from the big fucking sign, we’re Neck Deep…” – an introduction perhaps not necessary from lead singer Ben Barlow, aimed at a crowd clearly all here for the Wrexham quintet. In an instant, they have the presence of a band who will soon be headlining venues at least five times the size of the 2,300-capacity Forum, firing out hits faster than the air cannons flanking the stage can spit out CO2.
Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans swap banter like a less profane Mark and Tom, as a triple-bill of ‘Losing Teeth’, ‘Gold Steps’ and ‘Crushing Grief (No Remedy)’ swings in like an onslaught of two-steps and killer choruses. It’s so insatiable that the momentum wanes through the less-renowned cuts from their second record, ‘Life’s Not Out To Get You‘. A somewhat half-heartedness midway through the set is the only thing that stands in the way of Neck Deep elevating far above pop-punk poster-boys status.
It’s not until a unifying rendition of ‘A Part Of Me’ (with ‘MVP of the night’ going to Creeper’s Hannah Greenwood for providing backup vocals) that Neck Deep claw back that sincerity, and when they round off the evening with ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’, it feels like they literally hit it home.
All you need to do is look at Neck Deep’s globe-trotting itinerary for 2016 to know that this is now the real deal. They are still the snotty kids from a dead-end Welsh town at heart, but they’ll also be Britain’s next arena-filling export if the odds remain ever in their favour.