Earnest, well-spoken and engaging, Neck Deep lead man Ben Barlow drew energy from a rapturous, tightly packed Town Ballroom crowd Tuesday night.
Donning red-and-black tartan slacks, a black, red rose-accented velvet coat and a black cap, the blonde Welshman connected well with an incorrigible crowd of pop-punk patrons from the outset. But, in a perfect metaphor, it was only after Barlow shed his jacket late in Neck Deep’s set, baring his bony, tattooed frame—and heart and soul along with it—that the show, in Barlow’s own words, “got real.”
Promptly after pounding several ounces of dark liquid from a plastic cup, he grabbed the mic—along with the audience’s heartstrings—and belted out a succession of several evocative, sincere songs, each featuring a personal, spoken prelude.
“Let’s go right from heavy to a song that makes you wanna dance and cry,” Barlow said, referencing the musical quality of the previous track, "Citizens Of Earth." The unmistakably jingly intro to “December,” a song about an ex-lover’s Christmastime infidelity, as he explained, drew uproarious applause.
“I hope you get your ballroom floor, your perfect house with the rose-red doors. I’m the last thing you’d remember; it’s been a long, lonely December,” he sang.
“Alright, it’s about to get really sad,” Barlow warned, introducing his next heartfelt offering, “Candour.” “Before my dad died—and I knew it was coming—I put all my angst and fears into this song. It was therapeutic, in a way.”
“I have your hands, but I have my mother’s eyes. Your tact and poise, and her sense of right and wrong. Heard you awake in the middle of night, letting go of the things you keep inside.”
Shifting to a more uplifting tone, Barlow explained that the next song was also about his late father and his mother. “They fell in love and lived a happy life, lived the dream together,” he explained. “They were together 30-some years.”
“If I could, then I would save you, and he smiled and turned away. In six weeks, they’re saying, ‘I do.’ Oh, love just don’t go that way no more,” he sang from the song“19 Seventy Sumthin.”
Every song conveyed meaning, but these were the mention-worthy highlights of a truly powerful set.
As ambassadors of a new wave of pop-punk, Neck Deep encouragingly exhibits or embraces all the defining characteristics and values of the genre: inclusive community, free expression, raw emotion, unrepentant refusal to abide by societal norms and rebellion against mundane, often restrictive, potentially scarring suburban life—whether it be from within the confines of mom’s house or mum’s gaff.
Neck Deep, Sept. 25 at the Town Ballroom.