Concert Reviews
The hottest gigs straight from the venue to your couch

New Found Glory and old-time friends reunite at the House of Blues (3/5)

on March 06, 2010, 1:49pm

Despite the fact that New Found Glory‘s show at the Chicago House of Blues was sold-out well over a week in advance, the show wasn’t featured in most of the “concert hot lists” put out by local media. Upon arrival at the venue on Friday night, it became clear that not many cared. This show, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of NFG’s self-titled album, was purely for the fans, and they came out in full force. And, directly upon arrival, it became apparent that nobody in the crowd cared what was “cool” in the eyes of the media. Uninhibited enthusiasm was the rule of the night. Tough-looking teenagers offered each other helpful direction on the bathroom towel dispensers. Beer-chugging guys in the crowd adjusted a dead spotlight so others could see the stage better. Even the opening bands, subject to derision at many shows, were well-received at this good-natured show. It was a pretty mature crowd, overall—fitting for a 10-year anniversary tour—that came together to celebrate the music they grew up with.

Opener Fireworks provided a solid set, well-appreciated by the cheerful concert-goers. Hellogoodbye came on next, and high-top sneaker and effects pedals were the order of the set. The band’s set was quite enjoyable, despite the fact that I found lead singer Forrest Kline a touch pretentious. Kline, a skinny, Rivers Cuomo type, is best when he’s singing more and talking a bit less (although a Mortal Kombat joke and accompanying sound effect went over like gangbusters). The best part of their set was the band’s unique arrangements; on various tracks, they employed a mandolin and a double-level keyboard. Those arrangements, fairly unconventional by emo-punk standards, were what pumped up their sound from average to uniquely enjoyable, and the crowd clapped along appreciatively. On closer “Here in Your Arms”, the drums and Kline’s guitar played in unison to create a lovely, heartbeat-like thrumming effect.

Saves the Day played third, and, as they lashed into the opening throes of “All-Star Me”, the ground-floor crowd surged forward as one. It wasn’t the start of a mosh pit—it was simply pure, unbridled enthusiasm. Saves the Day has several distinct tones, and as they often do when they play with other harder bands, they stuck to the harder edge of their sound. They did, however, manage to squeeze in some old crowd favorites, much to the audience’s delight. Lead singer Chris Conley paced around stage like the Zen master of emo music, declaring to the audience, “We are a family on earth, and I love you!” Highlights of the set included “Firefly”, “Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots”, “Sell My Old Clothes, I’m Off to Heaven”, and “At Your Funeral”, at which point even the holdouts on the fringes of the crowd began dancing. Whether the band’s playing hard or soft, the unique inflections of Conley’s voice always stand out, and this was one of the best “hard” sets I’ve ever seen them play.

The crew closed the stage curtain during the change-over, and the auditorium buzzed with palpable excitement every time a roadie bumped against the curtain. If the crowd was appreciative of Hellogoodbye and welcoming to Saves the Day, they needed New Found Glory like they needed another beer (which is to say, pretty badly, as this is one of the only shows I’ve ever been to where no one in the crowd budged an inch between sets. Anyone hoping to elbow his way forward during a stage change was sadly disappointed).

Finally, the curtain whipped open to reveal New Found Glory’s iconic label-maker style band logo, and the room went crazy. Lead singer Jordan Pundik leapt onto the stage followed by the band, and “frenzy” is really the only appropriate word for what followed.  He announced that they’d be playing their self-titled debut album (whose ten-year anniversary was the one in question) in its entirety. “This tour is for the old people!” declared guitarist Chad Gilbert, though if the band’s been around long enough to garner old people, they didn’t show it. Pundik, Gilbert, and guitarist Steve Klein jack-knifed around stage in spastic little half-cartwheels; bassist Ian Grushka, playing shirtless, stood splay-legged and open-mouthed, playing so hard he sometimes closed his eyes involuntarily. Drummer Cyrus Bolooki tossed his drumstick mid-song as high as the stage-lights and caught it effortlessly, coming back in on the downbeat. They knew they were playing songs the crowd adored, and yet they still played as if their lives depended on it, played with a pure joy that radiated out in the music they made. I’ve rarely seen such a tangible, huge affection between band and audience.

Particular highlights of the set included single “Hit or Miss”, during which Pundik came down into the front rows and let individual crowd members sing lines into his microphone; “Vegas”, during which the crowd at Gilbert’s behest created a “big-ass circle pit”; “Boy Crazy”; and “Ballad for the Lost Romantics”, the last track from the self-titled album, which also closed the regular set. The crowd didn’t budge, though, and the band was soon back on stage, screaming, “Are you ready for round two?” The encore included crowd-favorite “All Downhill From Here”, as well as “Hold My Hand”, during which two fans dressed as Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s Frylock and Meatwad rushed the stage and managed to get on. Pundik grinned and waved them toward the microphone, where they gleefully helped sing the chorus. Someone in a green man suit joined them, prompting Pundik to declare that next time, all fans needed to do was wear “a cool costume” if they wanted onstage. Despite many warnings to the contrary, the burly security guards were hard-pressed to stop the rampant crowd-surfing (hey, fish gotta swim; punks gotta surf…). New Found Glory closed the set with “My Friends Over You” and left the stage triumphant, declaring, “We’ll see you guys next time!” If this is the kind of momentum the band can maintain, perhaps we’ll be seeing them on their 20-year anniversary tour in 2020.

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