The Neighbourhood debuted “dark pop” to Richmond on Saturday with a night I don’t think a
The Neighbourhood debuted “dark pop” to Richmond on Saturday with a night I don’t think anyone was expecting. For the near capacity crowd in attendance, the night featured pretty much everything you could hope for in a concert and was as diverse a show from top-to-bottom as this reviewer has ever seen. The buzz as the crowd left that night seemed to tell the whole story and from electronic chillwave to Britpop to hip-hop’s take on rock, Richmond got it all Saturday night at The National with more than their money’s worth for an excellent show.
LA’s Ghost Loft opened up the night with a thirty minute DJ set that left the crowd in what could be best be described as complete and total ambivalence. That’s not to say his set of ethereal remixes were bad. In fact, he fit in with the “dark pop” sound that The Neighbourhood has been proudly showcasing better than you would imagine.
His songs, however, seemed lost on a crowd that paid money to see something completely different than this. Under different circumstances, Ghost Loft’s set might have been praised, but here, standing in front of a backdrop that played 1990s Windows screensavers on LSD, his music fell flat on a crowd that was gracious enough to be as far away from disrespectful as possible.
England’s LOVELIFE followed with a set that was everything Ghost Loft’s wasn’t. From the get-go, it was clear a good portion of the crowd might have simply shown up just for them, with The Neighbourhood being an afterthought. The teenage cries from the crowd almost made it seem like the indie version of The Jonas Brothers had descended on Richmond.
Luckily, their music was anything but radio-friendly sugar pop as the band proved just why they’re building a name across the pond. The band’s take on Britpop in 2013 comes off extremely strong, so much so that you almost forget about the band’s failed beginnings. To certain fans, singer’s Leonard Newel first band, Viva Brother, invokes memories of failed expectations as the band’s 2011 debut album was critically panned across the board leading to intense criticism (mostly centered on a six-figure contract with Geffen Records) that ultimately led to the band disbanding. Luckily with LOVELIFE though, Newell and his new band mates have a much more polished sound that fits in extremely well with an emerging British sound making waves in America this year. They’re definitely a far cry from The 1975, but for fans of that English act, you’d be hard pressed to not enjoy LOVELIFE. Comparisons and past bands aside, LOVELIFE made a strong debut in Richmond with a crowd that would surely welcome them back with even louder cheers than their set here received.
Two openers down and the crowd was beyond pumped for The Neighbourhood. From the get-go, you could tell these were not the fans who just simply liked “Sweater Weather” when they heard it on the radio. Instead, the crowd was full of people who knew the album top to bottom and loved every note, every lyric, and every last minor nuance that made the band utterly unique in a sea of copycat acts.
“Dark pop” lorded over Richmond for sure during their set, as well as their hip hop influence that they so proudly boast about. Listening to their album, you can definitely hear the elements, but seeing them live, it’s easy to see that the quintet from Los Angeles is putting the best hip-hop spin on rock in recent memory. This was no “nu metal” though with screaming vocals, DJs spinning, spiked hair, and random rap verses. This was a methodical combination of two styles that works to create something truly remarkable.
Ravaged by coughs and sickness, the band still managed to give as much energy as humanely possibly and might even look at this show in the future as their “Michael Jordan show.” It was crazy to hear lead singer Jesse Rutherford talk about his coughs like they were a tool of the devil and then, almost in the next breath, erupt on the mic for each song. His voice seemed to take a break though during one of the highlights of the show as the band performed a very relaxed, stripped down version of Destiny’s Child’s hit song from 2000, “Say My Name.” The minimalist approach to the song hopefully didn’t surprise anyone on the show. In fact, the minimalist approach to a lot of the band’s melodies is the best part of the band, harkening back to a sound from the 80s that was loved but largely left undiscovered. With a hip-hop backdrop, that style soars and it was no more evident than on “Alleyways” as only a few notes from guitarist Zach Abels encompassed the whole venue perfectly.
As the band closed the night off with their new single “Afraid,” the crowd seemed beyond willing to shout and scream with Rutherford as the lyrics proclaimed: “You’re too mean, I don’t like you, fuck you anyway.” With the crowd roaring, it was a perfect song to go off on that would have been lost on a crowd not as in love with the band’s young catalogue of songs. Sick or not, the band delivered a set that’s surely going to help them build their name. Along with their unique style and sophisticated compositions, it’s all the makings for a band we should be hearing more and more about as the years go by. As those years go by, Richmond will be thankful and beyond gracious to host a band of this caliber again.