Neck Deep @ Leeds Beckett University

Posted by vibrations on 28-04-16

Since the launch of their first album ‘Wishful thinking’ in 2014, Welsh five-piece Neck Deep have exploded on to the scene with sheer ferocity. Since the get-go they have built a solid, ever-expanding fan-base, and now at the release of their second studio album ‘Life’s Not Out to Get You,’ a ruckus has stirred. For anyone who thought that pop punk had died a death in the mid-2000s, it’s safe to say that it was alive and kicking at the Leeds Beckett University leg of Neck Deep’s current UK tour…

WSTR gave the gig an energetic jumpstart, delivering catchy three-chord punk driven by Sammy Clifford; a talented, dynamic frontman who could whip the crowd into a frenzied circle pit or produce a mass sing-along by mere command. Their cover of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break stuff’ was a momentarily bewildering time-hop to the nineties, but one that actually fit perfectly with the spirit of the evening, and was undoubtedly the talk of their set.

Creeper were next up, looking and sounding like a pop punk KISS. Far from being just an awesome glam rock cliché, they began full of anthemic pop, vigour and chat. The 45 minute set fizzled towards the end though with downbeat ballads, and lost the crowd’s captivation. It felt that WSTR would have been the better choice for the longer support slot to really keep the crowd’s momentum for the headliners…

As soon as Neck Deep appeared, the restless crowd struggled to contain themselves as singer Ben Barlow leapt effortlessly around stage, engaging with the audience. Barlow’s vocals were on point, ranging from raspy, gravelly tones to soft, mellow choruses, and they meshed perfectly with Fil Thorpe-Evans’ backing vocals to produce classic pop punk harmonies. Guitarists Matt West and Sam Bowden gave the show movement, constantly switching sides on the stage and interacting with the crowd, keeping things mesmerising, (as if the bold comic strip-esque scenery didn’t do enough of that). All of these ingredients contributed to the zealous dynamic that the band emanate, each member jumping with perfect synchronisation, reminiscent of 90’s pop punk heroes New Found Glory. Highlights of the evening came in the form of Barlow’s solo acoustic performance of ‘Head to the Ground’ which opened a floodgate of emotions – leaving the audience in hushed tones and a sea of phone lights aglow. Recent track Serpents’ really picked the crowd up though, as well as old favourites such as ‘Kick up the roots’ and ‘Part of me.’

The evening had all the hallmarks of a classic pop punk show; fun, energy and great melodies – with just the right amount of joyful ‘90s derivation. Who ever said that pop punk was dead?

Review by Olivia Hale