LIVE REVIEW: ROAD TO WARPED – LEEDS UNIVERSITY [06/11/12]

Reviewed by Adam Smith

Tonight’s bill is jam-packed with pop-punk talent, ranging from exciting young upstarts The Story So Far to seasoned veterans New Found Glory, while Less Than Jake’s ska stylings add some more variety to the mix.

Opening the show are The Story So Far, who have made quite a name for themselves over the last year. Their first appearance on UK shores took place only in January, when they were greeted warmly by fervent crowds, climbing all over each other to sing along to their infectious, fast-paced take on pop-punk.

After a slow start, ‘High Regard’ sends bodies flying towards the stage, leaving vocalist Parker Cannon a spectator as the band’s faithful passionately sing back all of the lyrics. It’s a mightily impressive reaction for an opening band and Man Overboard have a tough act to follow.

Unfortunately, Man Overboard’s set just doesn’t connect with the crowd in the same way as TSSF’s performance. Musically, the band deliver their tracks consummately, yet the vocals leave much to be desired. Still, the New Jersey men gain respectful applause and the chorus of “Dead End Dreams” is even catchier in a live setting than on record. Towards the end of Man Overboard’s set, the venue reaches near-capacity as anticipation grows for the first of tonight’s headliners, Less Than Jake.

The Gainesville legends waste no time, immediately launching into the anthemic “Gainesville Rock City”, sending the crowd all the way back to 2001. Unlike many bands, Less Than Jake do not push their latest material onto audiences. Chris shouts “everyone knows our old stuff is the best” and that attitude is clearly reflected in the setlist, which is made up largely of songs from their Hello Rockview, Borders and Boundaries, Losing Streak and Anthem albums.

LTJ are also a band who clearly play with the intent of just having fun, cultivating a party atmosphere that puts smiles on everyone inside Leeds University.  It’s an experience that is closer to a comedy show than it is a live gig, and it’s apparent that many New Found Glory fans have been converted into ska kids for the night.

Less Than Jake’s spectacular set drains the energy out of many people, presenting a challenge for New Found Glory, who are using the night to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their Sticks and Stones release.

For a lot of bands, playing an album in its entirety would be a risky prospect, but Sticks and Stones is brimming with gold-plated hits. Only when the album is played in its entirety do you truly gauge just how consistent the record is.

Understatement” predictably opens the set in explosive fashion, inspiring one gig goer to launch himself off the side of the stage within the first 10 seconds.  “My Friends Over You” follows, prompting euphoria throughout the entire venue.

After playing arguably their most well-known song, it’d be easy to expect NFG’s momentum to drop, but that simply isn’t the case. “Sonny”, “Something I Call Personality” and “Head On Collision” are all performed in an energetic fashion and the crowd shows no sign of fatigue.

The Story So Far” wraps up Sticks and Stones in emotive fashion, and the true importance of the band is emphasised by the fact that it’s a track that tonight’s first band are named after. The Florida natives then treat us to a selection of their other hits, including a thunderous “All Downhill From Here”, culminating in drinks flying through the air from all corners of the room.

Although a New Found Glory/Less Than Jake tour would have certainly sold out larger venues ten years ago, tonight was a testament to the long-term appeal of both bands. Pop punk (and ska) certainly are not dead.

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