New Found Glory are still at the top of their game. Fact. It’s also easy to see why they’re referred to as the “godfathers” of the genre, helping establish pop-punk in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Their lyrics and song titles have influenced bands with their names such as All Time Low and The Story So Far.
Celebrating ‘20 years of pop punk’, the ninth leg of their 2017 U.K. tour took them to O2 Academy Birmingham on Saturday, September 30th. Mixing up the back catalogue, this gig saw them focus on two stellar albums from the early days, the eponymously titled second album from 2000, and their third, Sticks and Stones from 2002. With a strong warm-up set from U.K. support band ROAM, New Found Glory’s lead vocalist Jordan Pundik tore into the opener from Sticks and Stones, “I’m sick of smiling / And so is my jaw…” And over 2,000 fans, many of which had travelled across the U.K. to be there, sang along in unison if not in harmony, to every word – a barnstorming reprise of “Understatement”.
These days many bands choosing to go down the route of playing albums in their entirety do so without regard to what it’s like to be a fully-paid-up member of the crowd. What might have been a reasonable choice of a track list many years ago may not be how the album is listened to today. No longer do fans put a CD on and play it through or even skip tracks – it’s all about mixtapes and streaming. And this show, and what a show it was, perfectly blended the tunes, the history, with a series of one taken from each, then two from one album, and two from another, and so on.
It might have been a set list to die for, but it was also a set list to literally get the Birmingham fans off their feet. As the U.K.’s ‘second city’, Birmingham has a long history of manufacturing, so it should be no surprise that it held what must be a record number of crowdsurfers ever seen at the O2 Academy venue. Flailing arms and legs propelled over the heads of others to the front in a production line fashion, being eased down by good natured security into the pit and, more often than not, getting a five from Pundik, lead guitarist Chad Gilbert or bassist Ian Grushka before being recycled into the heaving mosh pit. With a bit of help from the band members, one made it on to the stage, though he perhaps overcooked it with a selfie or two too many. All good fun!
Banger after banger, highlights included “Hit Or Miss” (Gilbert told fans: “Cyrus only wrote one riff and it goes like this” – and what a song!) and “Sincerely Me”, with its iconic Grushka bass riff, from the self-titled album, and “Something I Call Personality” and “Head On Collision” from Sticks and Stones. “Happy Being Miserable”, the first hit single from Makes Me Sick, the latest album released in April 2017, also got some airtime. The band closed an incredible 90-minute set with two songs from Sticks and Stones – “The Story So Far” and “My Friends Over You”.
As the masses spilled out of the venue into a typical drizzle-laden Birmingham autumnal night, some were reflecting on their favourite song, favourite moment while others might have been thinking about Chad Gilbert’s heartfelt plea for fans to “Believe in yourself. Do what you want to. Follow your dreams.” Back in the late 1990s, these guys from Coral Springs, Florida had a dream, worked hard, got lucky, and twenty years later still are having it large. With New Found Glory, pop punk’s not dead. It’s still here, some say stronger than ever, and it’s here to stay, perhaps for at least another 20 years.