As far as modern rock bands go, A DAY TO REMEMBER have always been a curious beast. Packing a curious fusion of metal riffs and pop-punk vocal hooks, the Ocala quintet seem to have had an ever-growing fanbase on these shores for years now, to the point where they’ve finally reached arena headline status. We decided to head up to the First Direct Arena in Leeds to catch the final show of the band’s UK run to see how it all went down.
First up tonight are Canterbury emo quartet MOOSE BLOOD, who have the unenviable task of opening such a packed bill. Kicking off with the slick radio-rock sound of Honey, the band instantly make an impact though – bringing much of the already-sizeable crowd on-side and garnering significant applause. Despite being just two albums into their career, the band already seem to possess more than enough great songs for a set this short, the likes of Glow and Knuckles from last year’s sophomore release Blush in particular sounding colossal in such a venue. Another thing that surprisingly makes the set enjoyable is the band’s relative lack of stage show – guitar amps surrounded in pink and purple lighting, coupled with a darker stage lighting means that for the most part, the focus is on the band’s music – something that tonight, works heavily in their favour.
NECK DEEP are out next, and despite an initially huge pop for opener Gold Steps, something just doesn’t seem to click for the Wrexham pop-punks tonight. Whilst not a total trainwreck of a performance, there’s just something about NECK DEEP that seems a bit off on this occasion. Frontman Ben Barlow’s vocals often seem lost within the mix tonight, and their back-to-back performance of ballad A Part Of Me and December is sadly tainted slightly when Barlow has to pause to berate an audience member for attempting to violently mosh during the former. It’s a real shame, because when NECK DEEP really get going, there’s definitely strong moments within their set, most notably closing number Can’t Kick Up The Roots. Sadly though, this is on the whole, a disappointing showing from the band often tipped as one of UK pop punk’s leading lights.
If NECK DEEP’s brand of classic-inspired pop-punk didn’t quite hit home, NEW FOUND GLORY might as well be the antithesis to that set. Jordan Pundik, Chad Gilbert, Ian Grushka and Cyrus Bolooki have been honing their craft for two full decades as of this year, and that’s something the band are keen to poke fun at on this occasion. Celebrating such a milestone of course means that their set tonight is a greatest hits affair, with the band trotting out a selection of stellar pop-punk anthems from all across their twenty year career. Everything from Hit or Miss from their debut album Nothing Gold Can Stay, to Selfless and Vicious Love from 2014’s Resurrection makes an appearance throughout the all-too-short set, with the most applause seeming to chime up for their ever-entertaining cover of Kiss Me by SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER. Of course, there’s only one way that NEW FOUND GLORY could possibly finish off their set tonight, and let’s face it, with a song as big as My Friends Over You in their catalogue, why would they go with anything else? It’s a perfect closer to what’s easily been the strongest performance of the night thus far, and things are only about to escalate.
For all the exciting up and coming acts and perennial pop-punk favourites on the bill, tonight was, overall, never really going to be about much more than A DAY TO REMEMBER and their performance. With a stage setup consisting of screens set into banks of tape machines and a drum riser surrounded by faux TV sets and speakers, it’s certainly a striking image for a band basically looking to stake their claim as kings of their scene. As Jeremy McKinnon and co. hit the stage, the response from the crowd is nothing short of rapturous, and the quite frankly mental decision to open with pit-starting anthem Mr Highway’s Thinking About The End is just about the most ridiculous start to a set you can imagine, as bodies instantly start to fly across the venue’s floor. Never before has the call to “Disrespect Your Surroundings” seemed more enthusiastically received than by the 13,500 or so in attendance tonight.
Of course, there’s much more where that came from, and the band continue on into a ludicrously strong opening run that takes in recent heavyweight single Paranoia, as well as fan-favourites 2nd Sucks, Right Back At It Again and I’m Made Of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of? What’s perhaps most striking about tonight’s performance is just how well A DAY TO REMEMBER seem to have stepped up to their new positions as arena headliners on these shores. It’s near-impossible to argue with the level of sheer entertainment on display throughout their set tonight, as huge pop-punk choruses are intertwined with neck-shatteringly powerful breakdowns for almost 90 minutes, the likes of Homesick inciting huge almost venue-wide mosh pits. Of course, it wouldn’t be an A DAY TO REMEMBER show without some slightly more daft elements though, and across the course of their set, the band trot out inflatable beach balls and crocodiles, a t-shirt cannon-packing roadie dressed as WWE Superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin, and most frequently, a handheld camera from the drum riser used by McKinnon to film both the band themselves and the audience. Even as the band wind their main set down with the pairing of All I Want and The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle, it’s clear that the crowd still has a lot more energy to burn.
Sure enough, the band then return for the mass singalong of If It Means A Lot To You, before closing off the evening with what can only be described as possibly the two strongest anthems in their entire catalogue back-to-back, All Signs Point To Lauderdale and the ever-crushing The Downfall Of Us All. In short, A DAY TO REMEMBER have accomplished their namesake for the people of Leeds this evening, and more than proved their worth as arena-headline material in the UK for some time to come. Where they go from here next is anyone’s guess, but after witnessing tonight’s show, there’s no doubt it’ll be great fun to watch.