Pop-Punk’s Not Dead Tour: with headliners New Found Glory @ The Institute, Saturday 15th November 2014

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Pop Punk’s Not Dead tour hits the UK this month, and kicking off the country wide tour was a date at Birmingham’s The Institute. The line-up included one of the biggest names within the Pop Punk genre, New Found Glory, as well as a few lively up and coming artists. I was particularly keen to see what The Story So Far had to offer, after hearing a lot of hype about them.

First up was easily the worst named band of the night, Candy Hearts: The New York Pop-Punkers, whose recent release ‘All The Ways You Let Me Down’ was met with very positive reviews from various music news sources, including Alt-Press & Kerrang!  It’s just a shame that none of their performance tonight came close to reciprocating the album. They were poor, which seems strange considering it was the first night of a huge tour for them.  The crowd didn’t think much of them either, there wasn’t much in the way of participation and the applause was muted. Maybe, this was due to the fact that the people who listened to their generic, schmaltzy brand of pop punk were probably at home, doing their homework for school on Monday morning.

Next up were State Champs, another New York band who only started out in 2010. Although, being a new band hasn’t got in the way over their last few years. Their debut album ‘ The Finer Things’ debuted at #2 on the Billboard Heatseekers charts and they have since gone on to tour with bands such as We Are The In Crowd, Motion City Soundtrack, & Bayside, as well as supporting The Wonder Years on the recent UK tour.  Their performance tonight goes someway to explaining why they’re being tipped as the next big thing in Pop-Punk, a genre that has grown somewhat stale and bland in recent years. They are lively, energetic and display such passion in what they do that It’s hard not to feel what they’re doing tonight. Dual guitars in this genre have a tendency to sound very messy, the melody and rhythmic nature rarely sounds good live, often sounding muddy, but not with State Champs, guitarists Tyler Szalkowski and Tony Diaz really sound terrific, particularly on their biggest song ‘Elevated’. They’re definitely a band to look out for over the next year or so.

The Story So Far were up next and it was immediately clear that a fair few of tonight’s audience came just to see them. There was a substantial cheer when they came onto the stage, after such a successful few years after the release of second album ‘What You Don’t See’. An album that thrust TSSF into the limelight after it was met with rave reviews and came 9th in Rock Sounds’ 2013 albums of the year. After knowing all this, it was a big surprise to see such an average live band. Frontman Parker Cannon, while aggressively throwing his arms around while singing paid no attention to the crowd that was so excited to see his band. I could barely understand his lyrics and what more he didn’t crack a smile the whole set. I’m not sure whether it’s fair to say that the fame has gone to their heads, it just seems to me like when you play the first date of a huge tour, supporting a massive band (who coincidentally, you named your band after) you’d want to give everything you have to make sure the crowd is having a good time.

New Found Glory have been a band for 17 years, that’s a hell of long time for any band especially for a band that plays pop-punk where bands have a tendency to die out early or get lost within a genre that is bulging at the seams. This is a huge achievement on its own; add that to the fact that they have been stable with their members over the last 17 years, apart from the last year where founding guitarist Steve Klein was kicked out of the band. This doesn’t affect the performance tonight in anyway, remaining guitarist Chad Gilbert easily steps into the shoes of two guitarists, making the songs completely his and often giving them a new spin. There’s no doubt that he is an immensely talented guitarist and without him I doubt NFG would have been the massively successful band that they are today.

New Found Glory is one those bands that you forget how many big songs they have, until you see them live. The set is filled with massive songs like ‘Understatement’, ‘Hit or Miss’ & ‘Failures Not Flattering’ the list is too long to mention them all. Despite no doubt playing these big songs hundreds of times, this doesn’t stop them from sounding absolutely huge tonight and for the band to still appear to enjoy playing them live.

They litter the set with songs off their latest album ‘Resurrection’, the first album since chief lyricist Klein had left the bands. It’s obvious that whoever wrote the lyrics on these songs, wasn’t trying to emulate his lyric writing style. The songs sound like NFG but somehow different, songs that are hit and miss on the album come across much better live. Lead single off the album, ‘Ready and willing’ sounds far bigger live, with vocalist Jordan Pundit sounding far more powerful live than on the album, with his energy on stage adding to the song no end. ‘Stubborn’ as well as being a highlight on the album is a huge highlight of tonight’s set as well, with some super catchy riffs and an even more catchy chorus.

Despite the things the band has gone through during the last year it doesn’t seem to have affected their live performance. They were incredibly tight, professional and above all, genuinely looked like they were having a good time. They gave the crowd, everything they wanted to hear and everyone went home very happy, despite some mixed support bands the evening ended up being one big party.

 

Review: Francis Sebestjanowicz

Photograph: PR

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