featuring Creeper and Speak Low If You Speak Love
February 03, 2018 @ Worcester Palladium
By: Rachel Lipson
Spending an hour or so waiting out in the cold Worcester night is never fun, but on this particular evening, it was well worth it. The Welsh pop-punk band Neck Deep brought a killer show, with a supporting roster to match. This tour celebrated the release of their new album The Peace and The Panic, which debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart this past summer.
Fellow UK rockers, Creeper, kicked off the Saturday night action. The band has often been described as “theatrical punk,” which is a perfect summary of their style. Many of their songs include elements not commonly heard in your ‘average-joe” rock bands, such as large choir-like harmonies, ominous monologues, and even a short mid-song transition into a ‘60s-style ballad. The band played a fairly short set that featured songs from their debut album Eternity, In Your Arms. The combination of catchy melodies and macabre lyrics created an experience that really felt like the band was putting on a show versus simply playing music. A perfect example of this was the first song of the set, “Black Rain.” It began with a short, spoken intro to set the scene (“At war with the world/Yet worlds apart/To return is a promise I can’t make”) and then shifted into a heavy guitar solo. Many members of the crowd seemed to have found their new favorite band during this set, as more people began to join in singing the anthemic line “Loving you is killing me” every time it was repeated in the song “Hiding With Boys.” In addition to their lyrics, the band’s appearance definitely fits their name; every member was dressed in black and many also sported black hair and makeup. The guitarist’s bright white hair contrasting against their matching black jackets (yes, matching jackets!) seemed to give off a Black Parade-era My Chemical Romance vibe, which suggests the idea that they are destined to fill the emo rock hole left by MCR’s departure. Don’t think that Creeper is a band of wannabe’s, though— they truly have their own style that will carry them far into the newest generation of punk.
Up next was Speak Low If You Speak Love, the personal project of the New York pop-punk band State Champs’ bassist/backing vocalist Ryan Scott Graham. Speak Low’s music is generally more mellow than that of the rest of this tour’s lineup, which is why I was surprised they weren’t the first opener. It was nice to have a chill break in the show before the atmosphere got rowdy again, though, and when I say rowdy, I mean it. Creeper’s set featured enough power to incite multiple instances of mosh pits and crowd surfing, and that attitude, in addition to the hype of Super Bowl Weekend, was enough to carry the energy level through to the next act. Speak Low was more than impressed with the crowd’s energy and even mentioned that this was the first time they’ve ever had a circle pit during one of their shows. They played some fan favorites as well as some newer songs off their most recent release, Nearsighted. A cool aspect of their performance was that they incorporated various percussion instruments into their set, bringing out a shaker and sleigh bells for a couple songs including “Cannot Have It All.”
Seaway, a fun-loving pop-punk group from Ontario, Canada, was up next. They themed their set around the release of their newest album, Vacation, with a big flashy banner behind them that featured the album art. The band’s catchy tunes got everyone up and dancing, including vocalist Ryan Locke who busted out his best white-dad-at-a-barbecue moves throughout the entire set (he also wore a white t-shirt and sunglasses while indoors, which really topped off the whole vacation aesthetic). Everyone joined in along with Locke as he sang the hook of their song “Slam” to kick off their set with a big “Everything is cool, man!” The set mostly consisted of songs from Vacation, including jams like “Apartment” and “Lula on the Beach,” but also included songs from their previous release Colour Blind and even a deep cut from their 2013 album Hoser. The band kept the crowd moving with their fast, upbeat songs and heavily encouraged audience members to crowd surf their way to the front. Overall, Seaway’s set felt like the perfect celebration of the weekend, with lyrics that inspired a sense of freedom and fun— almost like a real vacation.
Right after Seaway left the stage, a white curtain dropped. Fans in the crowd were getting more and more excited by the minute as Neck Deep’s tech crew set up the stage. After a while, the lights dimmed and silhouettes of lead singer Ben Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans towered behind the curtain as the band played the opening riff to one of their newest hits, “Happy Judgement Day.” The curtain dropped and everyone screamed, starting off the band’s set with a bang. This tour is Neck Deep’s first return to the United States since headlining the 2017 Vans Warped Tour, and they were welcomed back with open arms. They mostly played songs from their knockout summer album The Peace and the Panic, including fan favorites such as “Motion Sickness” and “In Bloom.” Conscious of what the fans want to hear, they also played many songs from their previous release Life’s Not Out to Get You and even a couple of throwbacks to their older EPs, Rain in July and A History of Bad Decisions. The band had a lot of fun playing for the crowd and even joked around about the Super Bowl. They mentioned that it’s nice to be in the US during the game instead of the UK so they can experience the fun (Ben Barlow even sported a Randy Moss Pats jersey, although Instagram photos later confirmed that he wore an Eagles t-shirt when they played in Philly a few nights before… traitor). Along with the fun, there were some touching moments. One was when Barlow and Thorpe-Evans teamed up for an acoustic duet for their song about the death of a close friend, “Wish You Were Here.” In addition to playing songs from throughout their discography, Neck Deep also brought out some featured artists from the other bands on the tour. Hannah Greenwood of Creeper joined Barlow on the vocals for “A Part of Me” and Ken Taylor of Seaway provided the unclean vocals for “Don’t Wait” are usually performed by Sam Carter of the band Architects. Neck Deep fully delivered on their promise to put on a great show, and I can’t wait until they return on their next tour.