A pop-punk frenzy descended on the Dutch city of Utrecht last Wednesday as Baltimore quartet All Time Low, accompanied by Chicago’s Real Friends and Welsh quintet Neck Deep, played a massive show in front of 2,000 fans at the TivoliVredenburg.
Chicago alternative punk group Real Friends opened the evening in front of a near-full crowd, predominantly consisting of teenage girls. Their 2014 album Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing was represented well during the band’s 30-minute set, despite its highlight coming in the shape of older track Late Nights in My Car. Frontman Dan Lambton, who told All Things Loud ahead of the show that he was very much downtrodden with jetlag, bounced energetically around the wide stage as he actively engaged with the audience by means of encouraging pits and introducing the band. I’ve Given Up On You made for a lighters-in-the-air moment, as Lambton sang, “I’ve given up on you, but it still hurts to know you’re not alone” with enough emotional intensity to tear your average All Time Low fan’s heart in two. Although there were a few off moments throughout the show, Real Friends generally left a good impression with the crowd as they left the stage to make way a quick changeover.
Welsh quintet Neck Deep, fronted by the energetic Ben Barlow, took the stage with tour manager Ian Koletsis in tow as a temporary live replacement for Lloyd Watson. Set opener Losing Teeth saw frontman Barlow run around stage as the drums picked up during verses, before the likes of the upbeat Crushing Grief (No Remedy) and Growing Pains saw the first pits emerge from within the heart of the floor. “I’ll sing you to sleep with songs that let you know we’ll all be okay” sang the baseball cap-clad Barlow during the latter as set closer What Did You Expect? proved to be a set highlight with a classic pop-punk chorus and spiralling guitar lines courtesy of Koletsis and Matt West. Neck Deep, who have just recorded their second album with Jeremy McKinnon of A Day to Remember, are one of the frontrunners in today’s heavily saturated pop-punk scene, making their main support placing on the bill rather apt. It won’t be long until Barlow and co. are playing similair sized venues, something which their upcoming second album will have a big say in.
Three fifths of Neck Deep following their set.
As a short thirty minute changeover ran its course, the floor and surrounding balcony of the TivoliVredenburg’s Ronda room became packed to the rafters, screams echoing through the room once the house lights dimmed and All Time Low’s standard walk on track, Jay Z & Kanye West’s Nigga’s in Paris, faded out. Frontman Alex Gaskarth took the stage amid endless screams, before his fellow band members Jack Barakat, Zack Merrick and Rian Dawson followed suit. Show opener Lost in Stereo encompassed huge sing-alongs from the excitable crowd, something which the equally popular Stella built on with a poppy melody. “You’re only happy when I’m wasted” sang Gaskarth during this ode to a girl named Stella, adding “Stella won’t you take me home” in its chorus. Heroes, taken from 2011’s Dirty Work, saw the whole crowd accompany Gaskarth on its brash opening line, “not gonna miss you when you’re dead and gone”. Faster drumming from the extremely skilled Rian Dawson helped carry the track along and through into standalone single A Love Like War. A huge chorus (“Hearts on fire tonight, feel my bones ignite”) made way for some of All Time Low’s best instrumental work, something particularly evident in Barakat and Gaskarth’s guitars, as well as Dawson’s drumming and Merrick’s pulsating bassline. A Love Like War is a song which bridges the gap between the old and new All Time Low. The new All Time Low, something we hear little of tonight, is a more polished and refined band who are heading towards the more serious side of rock.
The “old” All Time Low is heavily present tonight, in particular on Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t), a track with an infectious yet extremely poppy chorus. If we’d have told you it was a Big Time Rush song, you would probably believe us. That’s not saying it’s too catchy or poppy, because it has both those things in good measure. The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver’s jangly melody and chugging chords made way for 2,000 voices all singing “stop fucking around with my emotions” at the same time. “You’re the snake hidden in my daffodils” sang Gaskarth, before he and guitarist Barakat engaged in some crowd interaction. When Gaskarth and Barakat engage with the crowd, it usually consists of subtle dick jokes and trying to get the crowd to undertake Mexican Waves and Green Day-esque chanting. Weightless was given a new jacket, with the crowd singing the first verse acapella before the band kicked into the chorus with full-on energy. “Maybe it’s not my weekend, but it’s gonna be my year” sang Gaskarth as he cheered on the first circle pit of the evening. His bandmates proceeded to leave the stage following this, as Gaskarth remained alone for two acoustic songs. However, this wasn’t until the crowd stopped throwing little gifts at him onstage to the point where he took for cover. Early track Remembering Sunday saw lighters in the air all over the room, before Therapy produced similar results amid a sea of flailing arms and loud voices.
The full band returned to the stage for Somewhere in Neverland, another All Time Low-by-numbers song with a catchy chorus, taken from their 2013 album Don’t Panic. A brief, incomplete cover of Fall Out Boy’s Sugar, We’re Going Down preceded Backseat Serenade, one of the highpoints in the show. “Backseat serenade, dizzy hurricane; Oh god I’m so sick of sleeping alone” sang Gaskarth as Barakat countered his vocal with near-falsetto backing in a catchy chorus. As the song died down, Dawson and Merrick played a small drum and bass jam which accompanied Gaskarth and Barakat’s quest to find fans to drag onstage. As is customary with an All Time Low gig, 2011’s Time Bomb always features a handful of fans onstage to sing with the band. With around ten fans onstage, the band powered through the song without giving them that much chance to sing. A couple of fans grabbed a microphone, with the rest taking onstage selfies and standing nervously. Penultimate main set track Six Feet Under the Stars made way for Something’s Gotta Give, the lead single from their upcoming studio album Future Hearts. It demonstrates a more mature All Time Low, a band lending themselves more and more to the mainstream by means of a mid-paced alternative rock track which demonstrates little of their early pop-punk beginnings. “I’m a cliché in a song, and everybody’s singing along” sang Gaskarth ironically ahead of the chorus, before the band left the stage to immense screaming.
The band emerged a couple of minutes later for the encore, opening it with 2013’s The Reckless and The Brave. “So long live the reckless and the brave, I don’t think I wanna be saved, my song’s not been sung” vocalized Gaskarth during another of the evening’s highlights. This was followed up by a homage to Blink 182 as the band covered their seminal track All the Small Things to huge cheers from the crowd. Upcoming album Future Hearts will see the band collaborate with Blink frontman Mark Hoppus, one of many musicians the band has collaborated with. The show closed on an intense and upbeat rendition of Dear Maria, Count Me In as Gaskarth ended the song in the crowd whilst Barakat ended it running energetically around stage pulling off weird dance moves (something which is customary during an All Time Low show). At 16 songs, the show was considerably shorter than their previous show in Amsterdam last year (which spanned 24 songs, 15 of which appeared tonight), although this was made up for with high octane energy and a performance most artists today would envy. Expect them to play an even bigger venue next time round, because that’s exactly where they belong.
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