By Laura Shields, Arts and Entertainments Editor @LauraShields86
New Found Glory’s “Pop Punks not Dead Tour” saw them visit Belfast for the first time in their eighteen year career. To say they received a warm welcome would be an understatement. Belfast relished every moment the band, modern pop-punk veterans in their own right now, were on stage.
Dublin based Alternative Rock band, Only Rivals started off what was to be a memorable night. Armed with an arson of alternative rock tracks, they play vigorously until their set runs short. So vigorously in fact that, bassist Sean Reid loses his hat. It is sheer defiance of science that keeps drummer Ally Doyle’s rooted to his head; the dangers of rocking out are real. Stephen Arkins jokes; “I guess these are all new songs to you guys”, as they play a combination of released and unreleased tracks. Their set is peppered with catchy riffs, melodic vocals and heavy drumming. Arkins engages the crowd with infamous roars of “1,2,3,4” and classic clap- alongs, urging them to the stage front; they unquestioningly oblige.
The next band up have travelled from further afield, all the way from New York City in fact. Candy Hearts truly bring the pop element to this tour. Lead singer Mariel Loveland swaps between the roles of guitarist and full on frontwoman effortlessly. Their catchy bubbly tunes have a feel-good factor that the crowd are lapping up. Reminiscent of early Paramore (not simply due to Mariel’s colourful hair and and sex), their bouncy tunes set the tone for the much more raucous New Found Glory to follow.
Actually, raucous doesn’t even aptly contain the experience that is New Found Glory’s set. That said it begins rather reservedly albeit theatrically. A projection of Judy Garland singing “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” acts as the third support act before the Floridian pop-punkers launch into “Selfless”, the opening track of their 2014 album, Resurrection. Within moments, a mosh pit makes the floor look like a swarm of angry bees in baseball hats. Lead guitarist Chad Gilbert points out that this is the band’s first time playing Belfast. Never mind third time being the charm, it seems the crowd in Limelight tonight are going to make this one count.
As the pit slows down, beer begins to fly and one ill-advised lighter can be seen flickering in the air as the band take a step back in time to perform 2000’s “Dressed To Kill”, the epitome of a teenage angst-y break-up song. It becomes evident early on that this is a night that will see New Found Glory showcase the range of their extensive back catalogue along a unique cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me”.
There is no metaphorical barrier between fans and band as anecdotal stories come thick and fast peppered with well-meaning life advice; e.g. don’t be afraid to take chances, it’s not the chance you are afraid of but the failure. Immediately preceding this gem which any motivational poster would be proud of is the explosive new single, “Ready and Willing” with its party vibe. The atmosphere is one of inclusivity and celebration. There is prescriptivism, but of the nicest possible kind as lead singer Jordan Pundik coaches the eager audience to sing along to “Stubborn”. This isn’t the only place where the crowd completely takes over singing duties tonight as their collective voices overpower Pundik’s during “The Story So Far”.
The band’s encore comprises of the Warning-era Green Day-esque ”Sonny”, the synth-sounds of “Hold My Hand” and the absolutely monumental “All Downhill From Here” which sees the climactic stage dives that were bound to happen all night. As Gilbert chuckles, “I’m so f**king glad we came to play here” it is obvious that the feeling is mutual.