With all the initial presence of mice, New York’s masters of all things weepy and introspective step humbly onto the stage at Southampton’s O2 Guildhall. Lurching straight into the chaotic ‘Sink’ and hypnotising all in attendance, it’s impossible to tell that they’ve been largely absent from the UK’s tea-stained shores for years. Brand New’s real home is wherever their fans are, and it instantly becomes apparent that not a single one of these fans seems to care that the original plan – to play two random full albums back to back on this tour – has been scrapped, in lieu of mixing it up a bit. But Brand New don’t need gimmicks anyway, and the following set proves this better than any album could.
Jesse Lacey is one of those rare frontmen that doesn’t let his ego overshadow the glistening melancholy, quality and craft of his songs. Tracks like ‘Gasoline’ are enhanced in a live setting, compelling in an experimental hardcore-tinged, garage rock style, and ‘Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ becomes a potent moment of concave nostalgia. But brute force has never been the appeal of Brand New, and the band manages to be just as powerful during instances of stripped back beauty, such as with ‘Jesus Christ’ and the intro to ‘Sowing Season’.
Every cadence of the set seemingly has a well thought-out purpose, yet simultaneously feels as though it’s organic, natural and discovered in the moment. This is Brand New’s biggest strength, and carries itself into the re-appropriation of classic standard emo tracks from 2001’s ‘Your Favourite Weapon’, transforming early noughties bedroom tears into confident – evidently more mature – present day singalongs. The tongue in cheek self awareness of anthems like ‘Mixtape’ adds an entirely new dimension to the room, one of obsession and emotion that revels in the past.
Enigmatic, banter-less and reserved, the show is the exact opposite of musical masturbation, void of arrogance and entirely focused on the music itself. Visually, it could be any group of guys silhouetted on stage, but the audible intensity of Brand New is unmistakable. Closing on an expansive rendition of ‘You Won’t Know’ they simply leave, releasing every dazed attendee from hypnosis and back into the real world. Business as usual.