Live review: Neck Deep, Alexandra Palace

Nice palace, we’ll take it: Neck Deep triumph at Ally Pally mega-show…

Live review: Neck Deep, Alexandra Palace
Emma Wilkes
Nat Wood

“I woke up today and it felt like Christmas,” admits Ben Barlow during the home stretch of Neck Deep’s biggest headline show to date. It’s an endearing statement from an ever-earnest frontman as he surveys the 10,000-strong crowd before him.

Then again, despite the kitschy, colourful visuals on the screen behind him and the jets of fire that roar intermittently, he’s not putting on rock star pretences. Really, they’re not far removed from the boys making a racket in a bedroom in Wrexham, and after a 12-year journey that’s brought joy, triumph, grief and industry plant taunts that they transformed into jokes, now’s their time to earn their massive-venue stripes.

They’ve brought some friends to kick things off – California hardcore mob Drain announce themselves in uproarious fashion, with charismatic frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro letting out a gigantic “YEEEAAAAAH!” as they attack the arena with their crunchy riffs. On paper, hardcore and Alexandra Palace seem to pair like sardines and ice cream, but frankly, Sammy’s personality is made for a room this big – “If you weigh more than 200 kilos, let me see you on the dancefloor!” he commands, not long after getting the crowd to do a jump-the-fuck-up at 7:30 in the evening, no less. Their enthusiasm is rewarded with swirling mosh pits and a guy crowdsurfing even with no music playing – “This guy has the right idea!” Sammy says.

Knuckle Puck have drawn the short straw, having to follow that absolute blinder of a set. Despite a slightly anaemic mix that waters down some of the potency of their heart-on-sleeve pop-punk, they’re a resounding hit, earning rousing singalongs just two songs in with No Good and raising spirits with a sharp airing of Tune You Out. By closing track Pretense, the joy in the room has properly spiked, ready to hit terminal velocity by the time Neck Deep arrive.

The overwhelming feeling as the band launch into the immediate party-starter that is Dumbstruck Dumbfuck is that this just feels right. Older hits like the bouncing Lime Street and frenetic Gold Steps feel like they were always destined for rooms like these, as does the sweetly naïve yet undoubtedly big-hearted favourite A Part Of Me.

They’re keen to show off the breadth of their back catalogue – even eking out the set to a chunky but not essential hour and three quarters – with the gooey one-two of When You Know and She’s A God and a fiery political section featuring We Need More Bricks, Don’t Wait and a scathing speech calling out the Tories and decrying the situation in Palestine as “one of the great fucking crimes of our age”.

Elsewhere, however, Ben’s more chipper, his between-song chat peppered with jokes about discounted butt plugs (HEALTH will be having a word), saying ‘jizz’ instead of ‘cheers’ and how it only takes “two actors to buy your football club” to put a place like Wrexham on the map. This is easily the most fun anyone could be having before a four-day weekend, and only those with the hardest of hearts will be walking back down the hill tonight without huge smiles on their faces.

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