In 2013, Neck Deep played their first-ever Slam Dunk as winners of a fan-voted competition. Nine years later, Ben Barlow would go on to tell that story to a far bigger crowd, now as the headliners of the whole damn thing.
Their set tonight is the beginning of their 10th anniversary celebrations, and what a way it is to begin. The Wrexham gang arrive amidst a cloud of smoke in a blazingly determined mood, charging through new single STFU with a pointed sense of attack. The 65 remaining minutes is a joyous celebration of Neck Deep past and present, just the right amount of sentimental, and with unlimited quantities of fun. They dust off old favourites What Did You Expect? and Over And Over in tribute to their origins, and add new sparkle to A Part Of Me by playing it on an electric guitar.
Ben’s between-song patter is idiosyncratic and witty as ever – “Please save your battery in case you need to call your mum,” he quips as he asks the crowd to wave their phone lights in the air – serving as a reminder that they’ve got here with a combination of big personality, big heart and big tunes.
All in all, it’s triumphant. Moral of this story? In Ben’s own words, “Start a band in your fucking bedroom and live the dream you want to live.” (EW)