I can finally say I know what it feels like to hear my all-time favourite band play my all-time favourite songs live. I think my life is complete. Well, almost, now I just need to see Taking Back Sunday in concert.
Still riding on the heady sails of their fourth studio album, Daisy, Long Island-based rock band, Brand New, played two sold out shows at The Kool Haus in Toronto this weekend. Devastated over missing an impromptu acoustic set at a Toronto HMV this summer, I quietly anticipated the band’s November return for the “Daisy” tour. And oh boy, this wait was totally worth it.
My best friend came from Halifax for the show. Brand New is a band we have bonded over for years; enjoying every album they release together, screaming the lyrics at the top of our lungs on nights out and nights in, wildly dancing in our kitchens while the CD plays full blast on repeat… I think you get the picture. It was imperative that we go to this show together. Avid fans, my brother and his girlfriend came from Ottawa for the show as well, so I can only imagine there were many out-of-towners who made the trek for this musical treat.
Guitarist and lead vocalist (and my future husband) Jesse Lacey stood centre stage while he belted out fan favorites for two hours straight. Wearing a plain white t-shirt, jeans and a slouchy toque, and with his guitar in hand and mic stand adorned with daisies, the disarmingly handsome frontman easily had all the guys and girls moshing, dancing, singing and clapping along all night long.
Band members Garrett Tierney, Brian Lane, Vincent Accardi, and Derrick Sherman all looked effortlessly cool and laidback as well. The whole band remained fairly anchored, poised in their positions on stage all night long, letting the music be the star of the show.
Brand New opened the night with the short but strong instrumental, “Welcome to Bangkok” off of 2006’s release The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me. The lights were low and the music started off soft and slow, increasingly growing in both volume and tempo. Being such a natural sound for the band, it was a very fitting introduction to the night.
I hate having to pick and choose, but here are some highlights:
“Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”
A lasting favourite of mine, the song, off their sophomore album Deja Entendu (2003), was played early on in the set and as the opening words rang through the venue, “I am heaven sent/ don’t you dare forget…,” the emotions in the room were palpable. The crowd’s voices drowned out Lacey’s as we sang along to every word, and right away I knew this was going to be a musical experience like no other.
In introducing this song, off of The Devil and God, Lacey asked that we please don’t clap along as he was attempting something new and different. The band remained silent while he played a solo version of this heartfelt song, just Jesse and his guitar. When the song reached its climax with the repeated verse “One’ll love you so much/ but do me a favour baby don’t reply/ ’cause I can dish it out, but I can’t take it/ Two’ll love you so much/ but do me a favour baby don’t reply… Three’ll love you so much/ but do me a favour baby don’t reply…” Lacey’s voice became louder and louder, and the band joined in to end it on an emotionally high note. The audience was enraptured with Lacey’s endearing vulnerability.
Things only got better from here as Brand New smoothly transitioned into “Vices,” the lead track off of Daisy. The song is melodic and intense, soft and loud; a trademark sound that the band is only perfecting with each new album released. At this point the audience went nuts. Emotions were high after Lacey left his heart on the stage during “Limousine,” and this screechy, heavy tune was just the thing to bring the audience to a boiling point. People were singing, jumping, flailing; the lights flickered from bright to dark over and over and over. The contrast of the two songs side by side created such an amazing atmosphere in the room.
The slow, moody guitar riffs of the song “You Stole,” also from Daisy, coupled with the heartfelt softness of it kept up the intense energy floating around The Kool Haus. With Lacey practically whispering the lyrics, he pulled his toque down to cover his entire face, save for his mouth, as he sang “If I’m a liar/ then you’re a thief/ at least we both know where the other one sleeps/ Yeah, you stole.” This earnest performance made for a hard-to-top, heart-palpitating, lip-biting moment.
“The Archers Bows Have Broken”
Being one of their more “poppy” tunes, I actually wasn’t expecting them to play this song. So, you can only imagine how excited I was when I heard the opening chords for it. It’s one of my favourites off of The Devil and God, and screaming along to it with my rock idol, as well as hundreds of other Brand New fans, was a surreal experience. During the song, I looked around at the smiling faces around me and decided that this is what heaven feels like.
“Play Crack the Sky”
Brand New ended the night with a heart-wrenching rendition of “Play Crack the Sky,” from Deja Entendu. The melody of this song is so pretty and the lyrics so depressing, yet the listener is left with a sense of hope. This is a contrast unique to Brand New’s style, a difficult balancing act that they’re able to achieve like no other band can.
The one disappointment of the night was the lack of any material from their debut album, Your Favorite Weapon (2001). It’s fair that they may have outgrown those highschool angst days, but many fans fell in love with Brand New based on that album so it would seem an obvious choice to play at least one or two of the fan favourites from it (“Seventy Times 7,” “Soco Amaretto Lime“).
Despite how old I felt in the crowd, it didn’t take away from the show because Lacey and Co.’s performance was so hypnotizing; they knew how to keep anyone and everyone focused on the music. Even the spilled beer down my back courtesy of a few ungracious concert-goers didn’t detract from my enthusiasm. My favourite band, so tangible, so close, singing the words that mean so much to me. I knew this would go down as my most memorable night in music.
On the song “Sowing Season (Yeah),” from The Devil and God, Lacey croons, “I hope you will forget/ things I still lack.” But after a performance such as this, it’s hard to believe that he lacks anything. Charisma, stage presence, passion, an amazing voice, and a penchant for lyrical treasures: they are all at his disposal. As it became obvious that the night was drawing to a close, I took one last look at the satisfied, sweaty people around me and it was clear that all was forgotten.