Roundhouse, Sydney NSW
September 7th, 2023
Supports: Yours Truly and Recast
It had been some years since the kings of self-proclaimed ‘generic pop-punk’ had graced our shores, filling venues with angst, attitude, and an abundance of energy. However, September marked the return of Neck Deep to our not-so-humble venues, marking some of their largest Australian shows to date! With new additions to the group, and new projects trailing every step of their journey since their last shows here in 2018, there was a lot to be caught up on! Bringing along their favourite Aussie companions in the form of the loveable Yours Truly and the rambunctious Recast, the stage was set for what was to be an unforgettable night many would be replaying ‘Over and Over’ in their heads!
Opening the night were Sydney locals, Recast. Unapologetically enthusiastic and simply overflowing with energy, from the opening moments of their set, the band charmed with an overwhelming liveliness. Occupying every section of the stage, vocalist Marty converted the space into a one only for two-stepping, thrashing his body throughout every song. Accompanied by the attitude-embedded lyrics and hard, jolty instrumentals, this display of dedication from the band made it impossible not to move yourself. Whether it was your cup of tea or not, the confidence and conviction that oozed from the performance personified Recast’s belief in themselves to introduce fans to the venue, and make them feel at home is the sweaty and sticky mists of the Roundhouse.
Next up are no strangers to the Aus scene, Yours Truly. Even as a band I have seen many times before, there is always an anticipation that surrounds a YT show, and of course, an opportunity to see their ever-evolving stature as a live band strengthen. With a few lineup changes under their belt, I was intrigued to see the new dynamics take the stage. With a loud roar, the band began belting ‘Siamese Souls’. Unfortunately for them, the sound within the first two or so songs was incredibly off-putting, jarring, and cutting out between every second word. Despite this, Mikaila Delgado’s vocals still shone through in the moments that they could, aiding their set with a salvation even among the head-scratch-worthy sound. Testament to their professionalism and performance ability, they charged on with their head held high. Perhaps the support from an entire crowd chanting at the sound desk “fix their sound” filled them with the courage they needed. Finally, with perfect sound, they began performing at full Yours Truly capacity and beyond. Showing off moments in their career from the Afterglow EP, all the way to recent hits like ‘Walk Over My Grave’, Yours Truly gave Neck Deep a run for their money, demonstrating their powerful and sophisticated take on pop-punk that has seen them become Australian household staples. Laced with style and class, the ambiance of Yours Truly never fails to engulf not merely the stage, but the venue- it is truly always a pleasure to see them entertain larger venues and throw themselves into smaller ones- both of which foster connections that see fans screaming back their hard-hitting lyrics, no matter where they are. After all but losing my voice and breaking my hips to ‘Circles’, it was clear many of us were warmed up for the pop-punk powerhouses to take the stage.
Although not advertised as sold out, before Neck Deep even took the stage, the crampedness of the room was inescapable. I had never been at the Roundhouse with a crowd so packed, and I was longing for the sweet release of any sort of pit to open up in order to escape the fumes of the man’s armpit who was next to me (and luckily, this did not take long at all). As the Welsh band trotted onto stage, the emotion in the air was palpable. As silly as their facade is, there is quite a lot of reflection, sombreness, and connection that radiates from their tracks- all feelings that are explored to great degrees within their live performances.
Since the last time Neck Deep was on our shores, not only have they released a handful of singles, but the album All Distortions Are Intentional was added to the band’s catalog. Showcasing the band in a different way, the project was an exploration of the modern realm and the calamity of the environment, all while testing their own music scene and the consequences of shifting sounds in a set musical environment. Their boldness and execution made this album rise as one of my favourites, and it was beyond exciting to see them showcase some of the tracks on this tour, paying homage to an album that never really got its time to shine. As the dramatic bangs to ‘Sonderland’ flew from the speakers, it was evident that the night was going to be a relentless battle between Ben Barlow and the audience as to who could sing louder- a fight that I still cannot answer as to who the winner was.
The most uniting thing at a Neck Deep show is the way the crowd interacts with both the band and one another. Three songs in, my skirt is ripped, and my hair is drenched, yet the smile could not be be wiped off my face. Everywhere you turn, there is someone new to scream at, someone grabbing your shoulders and spinning you around, someone to (playfully) destroy in the pit and give a solid nod to the next time you see them. There is an overwhelming sense of community that emerges at their shows; a feat that is of course more than evident at most pop-punk gigs, but finds its peak here within the walls built by these founding fathers. As the lights flooded the room with a blood red, and all offered their sacrifices to ‘Kali Ma’, outreaching hands reflecting from the glass roof of the venue, by song three, chaos was let loose upon the Roundhouse. Guitar spins and kicks on stage were mimicked by the audience in the form of the thrashing legs of crowd surfers and the busy hands of fans.
Most of Neck Deep’s current shows have been celebrations of ten years of Rain In July / A History of Bad Decisions, and tonight, we caught a glimpse of it. The intro to ‘What Did You Expect?’ saw long-time fans gasp, and a room already at one hundred percent energy somehow multiply itself exponentially. It was heartwarming between songs to hear the band recount their journey, recalling pivotal and polarising moments in their long-spanning career that have seen them develop into the band they are today. With respect for all of their past (except for ‘A Part Of Me’), the same love and passion is poured into the performance of their first written songs, all the way to their new singles.
This same passion for the new singles also seems to be reciprocated by fans. Showcasing their latest offerings like ‘Take Me With You’ and ‘Heartbreak of the Century’, words were being recited as strongly as ever, and the crowd moved with flair and spunk. The moment came as opportune to reintroduce Neck Deep as they are now; new members, new music, but the same attitude that has been alluring for so many years. One shoey later and introductions out of the way, the band felt bonded enough to elaborate on the new album journey, and just how close they are to releasing upcoming projects. A sneaky appearance on Triple J was also mentioned!
What never fails is Neck Deep’s stage presence and understanding of the audience, not just musically, but as showmen and entertainers. Cue the crowd getting lectured on the band “always writing corny love songs” when it was time for ‘When You Know’ and ‘She’s A God’, and that we were definitely not getting to hear ‘A Part Of Me’ because they had “been there, done that”. There is just something so wholesome about sneaking in a laugh before getting kicked in the mouth for the second time that night. With some cheeky banter before ‘ending’ the night with ‘December (Again)’, the crowd once again exceeded the expectations of itself and became a surge of feeling, screaming, longing, and admiration.
Of course, coming back out on stage, the band ended the night with what I think to be three perfectly curated songs; ‘Motion Sickness’, ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’, and ‘In Bloom’. All three songs hold such a tangible feeling of the search for belonging, becoming someone, and understanding the place in which we are situated. As Barlow’s vocals trudged their way through every pore, it was hard not to get emotional at this moment (or more so, bawl your eyes out). Celebrating the very essence of the band and their place as pioneers of the genre, this encore was a showcase of them at their very best, the pinnacle of their performance. As voices shouted the loudest they could, and the loudest they had all night, to ‘In Bloom’, the feeling of belonging was one that permeated throughout the entire room. It was with that climax that the band left the stage for the last time that night, leaving everything they could with the dedicated fans in the room.
Overall, this tour was an exhibition of Australia’s homegrown talent among some of the genre’s finest- a margin that is truly not that separated. Both Recast and Yours Truly opened the night with power and energy that rightfully set up one of the most energetic crowds I have ever seen grace the Roundhouse. As a long-time fan, it is safe to say this was one of Neck Deep’s best shows in Sydney. What is admirable about this band is their conduction of the crowd and their understanding of those who show up night after night.
Emotional but silly, Neck Deep has a dichotomy in their music and stage presence that has you laughing one minute and sobbing the next- and that’s even without the music! With the most vigorous crowds I’ve seen in recent shows, it is obvious Neck Deep will always have a home on Australian soils!
Gig Review by Georgia Haskings. Insta: @ghaskins2002