‘We’re called Brand New and we’re from New York’. It seems Jesse Lacey hasn’t quite grasped the fact that he and his bandmates have sold out the Hammersmith Apollo, and the place is rammed with fans, hanging on his every word.
But that’s one of the endearing things about this band – whether we’re watching them in Madison Square Gardens or at the Barfly – they always so seem so humble, there are no oversized egos on stage, no swaggering arrogance – only the ironic, poison tipped lyrics reveal what’s going on in their heads.
It’s a miserable cold and raining night in London as Jesse Lacey takes to the stage a little after nine, quietly wandering to the front of the stage wearing what looks like an old cardigan, until the lights pin him down. Unassuming, almost wary and visibly taking a step back as the wall of sound from the crowd hits him, he drops smoothly into the first track. Jude Law And The Semester Abroad kicks off the fun tonight, tongue in cheek from the band, as it’s slating a girlfriend who’s gone to the UK and falls for the English charm.
Close on its heals is the usual set closer, Seventy Times 7 with it’s poison fuelled lyrics ‘Have another drink and drive yourself home. I hope there’s ice on all the roads. And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt and again when your head goes through the windshield’. Lacey has in the past veered away from their early material, but the first thirty minutes tonight are dedicated to tracks from 2001’s Your Favourite Weapon, crowd pleasing favourites like The Shower Scene and No Seat Belt Song, and then we’re treated to a stunning rendition of the album closer Soco Amaretto Lime. As Lacey belts out ‘Going to stay eighteen forever’ the crowd are as one, lines ringing out word perfect.
The second part of the night arrives, a rinse through the wonderful Deja Entendu starting off with the familiar intro of Tautou and ‘burning like a bridge for your body..’ In this album the band found their direction. Months of endless touring had taken its toll, Lacey seems disillusioned with life on the road ( ” I write most post cards than hooks, I read more maps than books, I feel like every chance to leave is a chance I should have took..”), their sound was maturing and evolving into some deeper, darker, and more complex. Instead of taking the easy road of another pop album, they produced something that made you think, and the choice of tracks tonight tracks their journey onwards.
Sic Transit Gloria, The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows, Me V Maradona V Elvis, and I Will Play Beneath my Spin Light are amongst the tracks on offer tonight , but it’s Guernica ( which Lacey dedicates to his grandfather) that’s tightens their hold on your senses. A personal highlight is the sublime The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot, Lacey’s vocals come into their own, with that break to his voice, an almost pleading, apologetic shrug “Spring keeps you ever close. You are second hand smoke. You are so fragile and thin. Standing trial for your sins. Holding onto yourself the best you can. You are the smell before rain. You are the blood in my veins…” Lacey’s become quite the lyricist.
They run through the tracks in their album order, with is a rare pleasure for the crowd, with every tune being welcomed with another cheer, each one louder that the last. And whilst Lacey holds our attention on vocals, praise must be showered on Vinnie Acardi winding up and up on bass to the right of stage, head lolling, eyes wide, throwing his bass around the stage as though possessed.
And so onto the last part of the night, and we’ve still not heard anything from the new album The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. With the lightshow altering the mood on stage for each new ‘act’, the lights flash down to red, and it’s like hell’s door has opened,Welcome To Bangkok‘s instrumental opening is colossal, extra musicians roll into the stage, extra drums screaming out so loudly that Brian Lane’s beat dictates to your heart, extra bass throbbing insanely.
Luca, Jesus and Sowing Season follow, and all sound better than at Brixton. Lacey pauses before the last track of the night and thank Me Without You, and to say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you’ to the crowd. The general feeling of warmth towards the band could lift them clean off the stage, willing them on to the final fence. And what a goodbye it is, it’s a good thing it’s the last night of the tour, Lacey’s throat sounds like it’s being ripped out, as he falls to his knees, screaming ‘ YOU WON’T KNOW’, like an animal possessed, and as the Garrett Tierney, Vinnie and Brian leave the stage, he’s left, writhing, red light pouring over him. He throws his guitar to the floor and walks away.
Tonight Brand New made good all the promises they spun with their last album, the performance is raw, jagged and a pleasure to witness. Goes to show that every band has their off day, and whilst their last London show in Brixton lacked the verve that tonight gives, tonight’s made up for that, and some. The new year has breathed new life in Brand New and with tonight’s show they revealed they really are a force to be reckoned with. With a headline slot at Give It A Name in April, Brand New are showing their true colours, and what a glorious light show it is.