Probably the biggest arena show of the year so far, it would be difficult to fathom a better line-up for those in their early twenties. After all, all three bands on the bill tonight have grown and matured side-by-side with their audiences, soundtracking a decade of trials and tribulations, of fumbling advances and broken hearts, and of faith and doubt.Thrice open the show tonight, which in hindsight is a shame. What’s more of a shame is Wembley Arena’s ludicrous photography policy, which sees me booted out of the auditorium after their opening three songs. It’s a harsh decision, as that brief snippet absolutely tantalises the ears. Jusin Kensrue’s voice is breathtakingly spot on, be he screaming or singing. Having spoken to people who managed to see their whole set, it was seem that they are tonight’s shining star, tugged down to earth with a criminally short set.
Glassjaw are a baffling prospect when given a few moments thought. Now more of a clothing label than a musical entity, the band have somehow retained a nigh on religious following despite complicated medical difficulties and the fact that its been eight years since they released ‘Worship & Tribute’, an album they are still feeding off to this day. Despite its age, the opening salvo of ‘Tip Your Bartender’ and ‘Mu Empire’ still manages to get the blood pumping on and off stage.
This initial excitement quickly wears thin however as the band seem to get lost amongst their set, losing the drive of their performance, as well as the interest of the crowd. Daryl Palumbo leaves contradictory impressions on stage, at times viciously spitting out his words and at others sounding completely terrible, more out of tune than normal and lost amongst the cavernous riffs. It isn’t until the closing track ‘Siberian Kiss’ that he finds his footing again, screaming cold blooded murder down the microphone in a hauntingly monstrous manner. Are they still relevant? It’s getting less and less likely, given the powerful performances they’ve been sandwiched in between.
I must make a confession before we move on to Brand New‘s set. For a long time I’d pushed them aside as the kind of band that my sister would fall head over heels for, and then completely forget about them after a month. I was forced to eat my words having been introduced to ‘Daisy’, and amongst particularly difficult and depressing personal upheavals I was surprised to find solace in Jesse Lacey’s startlingly honest lyrics. The power of music is that it connects to you (and as pretentious as it sounds) I actually found that with Brand New.
But this isn’t a personal show. Wembley Arena is crammed with screaming girls and angst-ridden teens wandering in Glassjaw shirts, all piercings and fringes. It’s not a crowd I can identify myself with, and apprehensions that the band are unlikely to create that tense atmosphere were already clouding my mind. But tonight a strange thing happens: the band are at their worst when shredding through the more aggressive elements of their back catalogue, and tear-jerkingly powerful when everything is toned down.
The arena’s sound absolutely falls apart during ‘Vices’, but as Lacey utters ‘Well I love you so much/but do me a favor baby don’t reply/because I can dish it out/but I can’t take it.‘ during ‘Limousine (MS Rebridge)’ I’m almost provoked into tears, reflecting on what has been and gone in the past few months (as a side note, I apologise for all this soppy, introspective stuff). It’s very rare that a band can evoke that kind of response in such a vast space, but I have to hold my hands up and admit that the softer elements of Brand New’s performance was just as enrapturing as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe it’s about time I got myself one of those piercings, eh?