Review: Neck Deep @ O2 Academy Bristol

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By Flossie Palmer, Features Editor

After a two-year postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Neck Deep finally made their way to the O2 Academy Bristol for the final show of their UK tour commemorating the release of their sixth album, All Distortions Are Intentional (2020). Against a nostalgic backdrop of a teenage bedroom, Neck Deep invited us into an intimate performance celebrating their long-awaited return to live music.

The band kicked off their show with ‘Sonderland,’ their first track on their latest album. The audience were immediately thrown into Neck Deep’s world, marking the start of a new way of living post-pandemic, or, as lead singer Ben Barlow sang, in ‘these strange times that we live in.’ From the get-go, the band’s performance was ignited with energy – Matt West jumping on the spot and dancing the infamous two-step across the stage while playing the guitar was a sight impressive in itself.

Throughout the performance, Ben Barlow transformed the show into a conversation with the fans, recognising the loyalty of those who had originally booked tickets for the Motorpoint Arena show in Cardiff, but still attended the rescheduled show at the O2 Academy Bristol. After an energetic performance of one of the band’s heavier and older tracks, from Rain in July (2014), Ben shouted ‘I don’t care if I f*ck my voice up tonight!’, indicating the band’s dedication to putting on the best performance possible after the show’s two-year delay.

Credit: Flossie Palmer

The setlist was carefully curated to suit the fans, supporting Ben’s statement mid-show that ‘everything we do, every show we perform, we have you guys in mind.’ The band time-jumped across their discography, performing some of their latest tracks such as ‘Lowlife,’ for their newest fans. Older fans who are more acquainted with the band’s heavier music were also catered for, with the band performing tracks from both Rain in July (2013) and Wishful Thinking (2014).

However, the gap between older and newer friends was bridged by the 2014 track ‘A Part of Me,’ originally sang by both Ben and bassist Seb Barlow’s partner, Laura Whiteside. The audience knew exactly what to do, singing both parts of the heartfelt duet which united Neck Deep and their fans in a sea of swaying iPhone torches.

As Ben said, the band ‘did what it does best – the cheesy love song,’ by dedicating their track ‘When You Know’ to all the lovers in the crowd. This was starkly contrasted afterwards by the band’s infamous track ‘December,’ a tribute to all their heartbroken fans. Whether they were heartbroken or not, everyone in the crowd sang along with passion and vigour to an emotional performance of the band’s most listened to track on Spotify.

The band also dedicated their newer track ‘Sick Joke’ to all those who had listened to Neck Deep’s music to cope with their mental health struggles, while Ben recognised the tough past few years everyone has been through.

Despite the difficult past few years during the pandemic, Neck Deep’s performance placed a huge emphasis on community, and acted as a reunion between friends. The clever set - a teenage bedroom, complete with an animated, retro TV and American flag with the band’s name scrawled across it – invited the audience onto the stage itself.

Ben expressed how he wanted everyone to feel like they were sat in the band’s bedroom, and this was seen re-enacted on stage, as support acts Happydaze, Higher Power and Wargasm made short cameos, playing board games in the background, shooting band merch into the crowd and singing an occasional verse in one of Neck Deep’s songs.

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Neck Deep kept their performance stripped back and casual, with Ben joking with the crowd when they did a self-admitted ‘cringe’ encore; Ben encouraged the crowd to chant ‘F*ck Neck Deep,’ making the encore their own by referencing the infamous quote (and meme) in ‘Citizens of Earth,’ ‘F*ck Neck Deep mate, they’re sh*t. Ben’s dad owns a record label,’ which mocks those who gave the band hate at the start of their music journey.

Above all else, Ben encouraged the audience to chase their dreams, and that it is possible for anyone to start a band from their bedroom, just like Neck Deep did. In a show which celebrated 10 years since the band’s formation, Neck Deep proved they care about their fans as much as they do about them and emphasised a community where they are the very backbone of the band themselves.

Featured image: Flossie Palmer


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