Punk rock jam bands invade the Fillmore
Brand New made good Saturday on the Denver show they cancelled in October, bringing the Manchester Orchestra along for the ride at the Fillmore Auditorium.
Brand New is one of those bands who, for better or worse, are built around the concert experience. Theatrical in the extreme (especially on recent albums), singer Jesse Lacey's band sounds great via stereo but always seems to inspire the comment, "OK, but I bet they'd be awesome live!" And that's true. But awe doesn't always equal enjoyment.
Brand New, which started off as a solid but unremarkable pop-punk act, has gotten steadily jammier and more bombastic since it formed a decade ago. While it's hard to dispute that the band's current sound is more impressive and rewarding than its earliest efforts, it's also a lot more self-consciously artistic. While that urge was largely forgiveable over the course of Brand New's last three headphone-friendly albums, it took a major toll live. The band (and, one assumes, mastermind Lacey) still seemed desperate to boost its street cred after the success of its poppier early work, and so the Fillmore crowd was subjected to three grungy jam sessions for every raucous cult hit ("Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades;" "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows").
If anything, the deeper cuts should settle any remaining questions about the band's abilities: Lacey definitely has a set of pipes on him, and the other members may well be one of the most underrated teams in alt-rock. Played live, songs such as "Limousine" and "Welcome to Bangkok" complete Brand New's transition to Spektor-style wall-of-sound jam band. Paired with a killer lighting package, the show was really something to see.
So what was missing? Well, the fans. Every time Brand New played a better-known song, the Fillmore exploded, sending crowd surfers sailing and moshers tumbling. Then the group would settle into a prog-rock rut and you could literally watch the young kids drifting off, followed by the older ones and finally the old-school fans. Far be it from us to suggest a band "go pop" and keep writing the same hit song over and over (we're looking at you, Nickelback), but there is something to be said for listening to one's customers. And if we spotted this interest gap in just one night, one can only assume that the band is aware of it as well. At some point, Brand New may have to accept that their fans simply don't have the same taste in music as they do.