Live review: Neck Deep, Glasgow Barrowlands

Fourth time’s the charm for Neck Deep as they finally roll their All Distortions Are Intentional tour into Glasgow…

Live review: Neck Deep, Glasgow Barrowlands
Sam Law
Elliott Ingham

Even by 2022's outrageous bait-and-switch standards, Neck Deep have been waiting a hell of a long time to take the stage at the Glasgow Barrowlands this evening. Originally scheduled for September 2020, pushed to spring 2021, then to January 2022, then on by another month, their All Distortions Are Intentional tour has finally made it to the stage at the fourth attempt.

"It's been a minute," grins frontman Ben Barlow a couple of songs into the evening’s chaos. "After years of pushing this shit back, we're here! What an honour it is to be in this wonderful city, at this legendary venue, in front of you beautiful people."

Safe to say, it's been worth the wait.

Another odd consequence of the 23-month shutdown is that a band like Edinburgh quartet Happydaze are able to open this gaping space on what's introduced as only their sixth ever gig. Born from the exact same school of sugar-rush pop-punk revivalism as the headliners, though, and with months of lockdown refinement under their belts, they're quick to win the room over, with nuggets like Go Wrong and the poignantly-titled Missing Out easily hitting their mark.

Leeds hardcore heroes Higher Power are less of an obvious fit, as the meaty riffs of Seamless and the more abrasive edges of Shedding Skin catch many punters unawares. With vocalist Jimmy Wizard stubbornly unwilling to allow the swelling crowd to stand still, the dizzying Staring At The Sun and a bludgeon-heavy Can't Relate (dedicated to the "mosh-pit freaks") see the dancefloor swirl into action. And, brilliantly, by box-fresh, arena-sized closer Fall From Grace, they've made believers out of all but the most timid souls in attendance.

It's a great spot for Wargasm to pick up. The London-based duo's brand of schizoid art-punk mightn't be to everyone's taste, but you can't fault their energy as Milkie Way and a shirtless Sam Matlock rampage through a raucous Rage All Over and into Salma Hayek, with live guitarist, drummer and sample specialist providing a juddering sonic backdrop. Riffing on everyone from Guns N' Roses, The Prodigy and N.E.R.D. to Dirty Harry and The Terminator, their set does occasionally feel like a roughly stitched pop-cultural patchwork, leaning a little too hard in second-hand cool. As bodies start spilling over the barricade for Your Patron Saints, the brilliantly-titled Drilldo gets even the doubters smirking, and Backyard Bastards invokes a chaotic melee. Their apparent mission to evoke a strong emotional response at any cost is duly accomplished.

From the moment the lights come up on Neck Deep's "bedroom" set, though – complete with couch, coffee-table, twin-size mattress and memorabilia cabinet – it's clear they're leaving everyone in the dirt.

The opening salvo of Sonderland, Lowlife and Motion Sickness sees the room explode, with a bouquet of roses slung at the stage, only six days late for Valentine’s. A frantically politicised Citizens Of Earth pulsates with big "fuck Tory energy". Knowingly cheesy love song When You Know gets the Barras' famous sprung dancefloor bouncing. What Did You Expect is a raucous celebration of ND's upcoming 10th birthday as a band. Sick Joke is a poignant reminder that they “will always be here for you".

And so it goes. T-shirt cannons sporadically fling merch deep into the audience. Tracks like lesser-spotted standalone single She's A God, A Part Of Me and Pushing Daisies pound with simple pop-punk purity. Even the absence of drummer Dani Washington doesn't damp the atmosphere as longtime drum-tech Matt Powles ably filling in. By the time we get to the arms-aloft encore of Gold Steps and In Bloom, there's not a frowning face in the house.

COVID might've held them up, but there's no stopping Neck Deep.

Neck Deep are on tour across the UK until February 26.

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