Brand New ripped through a searing, sprawling performance last Wednesday in front of a capacity crowd at Upstate Concert Hall. Their nearly two-hour set was an exercise in community release; during many of the songs, a majority of the crowd shouted every word right back at frontman Jesse Lacey with the immediacy of a prom-night sing-along.
The nostalgia was particularly sweet since the band elected to play their beloved second record, Deja Entendu, in its entirety to open the show. Deja Entendu is the purest distillation of the sound that sparked first kisses and spoke to a certain generation of middle schoolers who still pack shows a decade after its release. Harmonies blend. Bodies collide. Guitars scream.
Brand New’s secret weapon is that Lacey’s keen ear for complex pop songcraft and the band’s deft instrumentality dwarfs that of their peers. Modest Mouse would have been able to pull off the taut tension and spindly guitar lines of the showstopping “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis,” but it’s hard to imagine Taking Back Sunday turning the trick. The plaintive, wrenching “Tautou” followed by the swaggering “Sic Transit Gloria” made me want to fasten my seatbelt. By the time my glasses were knocked off my face during the relentlessly catchy “Okay I Believe You but My Tommy Gun Don’t,” I realized this was not a show for clumsy seatbelt metaphors.
“Vices” was a highlight of their post-Deja set; its snarling, screaming vocals and pounding drums were as raw as it gets. “Jesus Christ” closed their main set. It is a landmark of their evolution from purveyors of pop-punk power chords to full-fledged alternative rock stars. Tasteful, restrained guitar work from Lacey and the impeccable Vincent Accadia. Slow-burning intensity. Biblical imagery. It was the sort of closer that emboldens the faithful and initiates new converts. Before encore “Seventy Times Seven” launched a mass crowd surfing tutorial, Lacey promised that they would be back soon. Don’t miss them.