It was a night to be marvelled at. Three incredible bands playing incredible music at a somewhat… nice venue, all to an incredible crowd. It was, of course, the All Time Low, Neck Deep and The Maine triple package tour doing the rounds across Australia right now. And by God, what a tour it is! With no opening band to serve as fodder or filler, the night was electric from the start to the end even with my personal taste for a few songs getting in the way.
First off, a spoiler alert: The Maine stole this fucking show. I’m just letting you know right now so that I don’t have to repeat myself over and over so keep that thought in your mind when reading on.
The Arizona darlings walked onto the backing track of ‘Lovely’ before diving deep into ‘Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu’. The song blared along at a lightning pace that matched my heart’s excitement in finally getting to see these guys again after so long.
From the onset, it was made clear to everyone in the room that The Maine weren’t here to mess around. They were going full force right from the first note and even when the track dropped away into nothing but John O’Callaghan’s smooth vocals and a beautifully gentle guitar, there was still electricity in the air that couldn’t be denied. But if people weren’t as convinced of how splendid this band truly is, then they would have fully understood when the song’s bridge begun to build up towards one brilliant surge of emotion into an Earth shattering final chorus.
It has to be said also that The Maine sure know how to party. Every member brought so much life and passion to the songs tonight it was surreal. The catchy, danceable romps of ‘Am I Pretty’ and ‘English Girls’ went off so swimmingly with the band getting most punters up and moving their feet in no time at all! On the classic ‘Girls Do What They Want’ they got a fan even further than off his feet by bringing him on stage. Well, I don’t think he was a fan as he looked very unimpressed with the circumstances but it was an awesome moment to witness as John went bonkers right next to a glumly looking teenager.
Look, The Maine are one of the greatest bands of all time and I can prove it mathematically. And from tonight’s short yet incredible performance there was one thing that I couldn’t deny – this is just beginning. This right here is where The Maine have come to life and where they have truly begun. And I for one cannot wait to be a part of this band’s journey and I know others present tonight will feel the same.
I feel bad for Neck Deep. Like, I feel really, really bad for Neck Deep. After all, they had to follow on after The Maine. I mean, I don’t know how I would’ve coped after seeing the glory of what was those Arizona master musicians. But they did one hell of a job at it as usual!
Despite a clunky mix, Neck Deep brought the much harder, much faster tunes of the night with opener ‘Gold Steps’ being a perfect track to jettison us off into pop-punk Neverland. It set the mood for their set: bouncy, vibrant and energetic. Followed closely by ‘Lime St.’ and the “old” banger known as ‘Losing Teeth’, they were off to a blazing start. Though as I said, things were sonically muddy, when I was dead centre of a pit, pushing some mid-twenties losers around and they were doing the same, it wasn’t really an issue, though.
Closing with their full band version of ‘December’ and ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’ proved to be a very wise choice. Both songs left the crowd’s lungs red raw from singing along and their feet sore from jumping in time with the beat. The former is personally a favourite Neck Deep song of mine and such a great example of how a simple yet concise and thought out track can do wonders. There are no Latin drum grooves, no mind-bending bass fills or face-melting riffs or pantie-dropping vocals – you get the point. There’s nothing here that would land the UK band as teachers at Berklee but what there is a fucking amazing song filled with a lot of heart and a brilliant atmosphere when played to a few thousand eager people.
Mr Alex Gaskarth walked out on-stage by his lonesome to kick things off with a solo intro to ‘Weightless’. I appreciated this no bullshit approach to just getting on with the show. I’m a lover of spectacle but so often bands hit an uncomfortable middle of grand and lacklustre. Not here. It was simple and to the point and we were all singing along and making his job easier without a second delay. The band joined in shortly after he begun and just like that, the night’s main event was underway.
With my heart still tingling from that opening classic, I had little time to catch my emotional breath before All Time Low kicked silence right out of the venue with the opening of ‘Somewhere In Neverland’ sounding out across the crowd. And fuck. What a goddamn bop this track is! It hits that perfect mark of being slightly emotional and personal while also getting it’s melodic hooks into you, forcing you into a stranglehold of singing along and jumping off your feet like a madman.
There was, sadly, now a lull for me as the band laundered on some tracks that just don’t resonate with me, such as ‘Cinderblock Garden’ and ‘A Love Like War’ (I know, first I hate Paramore’s new record and now I don’t like that song? I’m just the worst.) But things came right back around with the chorus of ‘Backseat Serenade’ giving my chest a good workout, however, then the show slumps into this weird version of ‘Life Of The Party’. To save Gaskarth’s vocal chords from frying up, they moved it down to semitones into G-major and as such, had a whole new vibe from the record version that didn’t sit with me well. I was hoping that seeing this track live would push me over the edge into really enjoying it but… no such luck. It was just off tonight.
Similarly, ‘Kids In The Dark’ and ‘Last Young Renegade’ were just a little too average and bland for my tastes when it comes to All Time Low’s previous highs. So much so that I just kind of bummed around until the only good song on ‘Future Hearts’ – ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ – let me go off my rocker again.
Yet with each trough, there was a vast peak coming up not long after.
‘Therapy’ performed by a lonesome Gaskarth gave my heartstrings a right old pull. There’s a very, very good reason this song has remained a staple of their setlist over the years. It’s a rare moment where the thin veil of dick jokes and innuendo this band uses breaks away and we’re left with something raw and fragile. It really is simply beautiful.
‘Missing You’ seemed to get people in an emotional state but for me, the song is just way too… country? Yeah, I’ll go with that. It sounds like some shit that Keith Urban would put out and is way too phoned in and on the nose for me as a ballad. Yet once again, the setlist comes around into a full swing as the lush guitar riff of ‘Six Feet Under The Stars’ sent me and many others into a frenzied array of sweaty bodies and push pits. Once again: what a fucking bop! This is one of the band’s career highlights. It for me embodies everything this band has ever done well: great choruses, slick melodies, all with a perfect execution of mood. Naturally, All Time Low seceded this track with ‘Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)’ which is ANOTHER total barn burner and had more push-pits and screeching in harmony.
Damn, the band were really lumping all the bangers rightfully together in big chunks for this set.
They faux ended with ‘Dirty Laundry’ and look, I’ve already been super negative this week (see the previous Paramore review reference) so I won’t dwell on this one, but it’s not good and it wasn’t that great live. The song definitely had a very different atmosphere and the band brought a whole lot to it – I can really appreciate that and commend it but honestly, the song is still just not for me. I just closed my eyes and waited for it to be over. When it was over and they came back onto the stage with ‘Lost In Stereo’ my life finally had some meaning again and there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
As the sounds of ‘Lost In Stereo’ and it’s epic final chorus ended and the band leapt into the old but classic ‘Jasey Rae’ I started the saddest circle pit of the year. Oh man. This thing was pathetic. I made a whole bunch of room with a bit of help from some other punters and then started a circle pit with like, three people. There was maybe a few more to join but fuck it, the whole thing was just all too depressing so we turned it into another basic-ass push pit and went on our merry way with our heads hanging in shame. The song was a ripper as usual and I will hold a funeral the day the band drops it from the set.
And here we came arrive the obvious set ender: ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’. Look, I get it. It’s a good song but is it show ending material? Well… no. It’s not. It’s just their biggest song more or less. I always feel a little off-centre with the song being my final taste of an All Time Low gig. It just doesn’t have that “wow” factor that other songs in their repertoire have. But nevertheless, the sing-a-longs and the confetti were all delightful and it was far from bad and I of course would be lying if I didn’t say it was a whole bundle of fun.
Three spectacular bands in a row with basically no filler (save most things from ‘Future Hearts’ or ‘Last Young Renegade’). The Maine were the winners of tonight no doubt but Neck Deep and All Time Low were also the tasty treats they always are live. If you were absent from tonight then take a good, hard look at yourself and sort the fuck out what shows you attend as you’re clearly making some bad choices. Or if you just simply missed out on tickets then by almighty fuck do I feel sorry for you!
Also, can we please stop waiting by the stage door for any band to come out of Festival Hall – they are always well and truly gone before people are even out of the venue and it’s just impeding foot traffic hanging out there. I get it that you wanna meet them or at least, see them walk to the van(?), but it’s just not going to happen and you’re going to be disappointed. Save yourself the time and effort.
This has been a Matty “Fucking” Sievers PSA.
If you haven’t got tickets to the future dates yet then stop what you’re doing and go and get them!
All photo credit to the beautiful Digital Beard – “Melbourne’s okayest photographer”. Check out more of his photos from Sunday’s solid show below.