Neck Deep, Wargasm, Higher Power, Happydaze @ Victoria Warehouse, Manchester, 24/2/22

It’s been a hot minute. Neck Deep are one of the unfortunate handful who haven’t only had to delay the live unleashing of a ‘covid album’ (theirs the stellar All Distortions Are Intentional) – but who’ve had to push it back through the sneaky Bad Winter Of 2021-2022 too. Luckily, only a month or so after the last scheduled date, we’re finally here, and the crowd is no less excited for it. Previously billed breakthrough legend nothing,nowhere. isn’t able to join us anymore, but luckily, he’s replaced by nu-metal breakthrough legends Wargasm, who add this massive room to the long list of minds blown since Download Pilot.

With the addition of Wargasm, tonight’s entire bill up till Neck Deep feels like a whistle-stop tour in upcoming British talent – our scene (we’re biased, obviously) is second to none, and it’s fitting that one of our finest pop-punk exports have chosen supports who are pioneering in their own fields. Happydaze kick things off – and they’re still in live show single figures. You wouldn’t know it, though, as their refined new-wave pop-punk provides an apt appetiser for the evening. Leeds noisy bunch Higher Power’s relentless hardcore has been firmly on the scene radar for a while now and they’re as raucous as ever tonight.

Wargasm, of course, seem to need little introduction – the people in this crowd who love them seem to be a loud minority, and bring enough of a response that Wargasm’s always-fiery live show remains bright. Although not everyone here has been won over prior to tonight, exposure therapy works as Milkie Way (and her “I’m gonna make you love me” mastery) and Sam Matlock’s ferocious energy does the trick. Circle pits materialise, snake hips get moving, Wargasm’s job is done.

From the stratospheric trajectory of the bands we’ve seen so far tonight, you might expect Neck Deep to come on stage with the pop-punk-band-who’s-made-it level of production befitting of their scene-staple status. But that’s not Neck Deep – never has been, probably never will be. The production value here is in making sure this feels as intimate as any Neck Deep show ever has – in the form of a bedroom set that the band perform from. Sonderland kicks things off, welcoming us into this upside-down home Neck Deep have built for us across the concept of ADAI, and it rings out as sunny now as it did at their summer festival appearances. The set continues in a life-cycle through old and new, with equal hype for the lot.

By this time, pretty much every song on the setlist has been elevated to anthem status by Neck Deep’s fans. There’s no room for filler, but fortunately Neck Deep don’t really have any – the consecutive choruses of Motion Sickness, Lime St, new cut Telling Stories, and Kali Ma are reverberated around the room by the bouncing crowd with no pause for breath, with ADAI’s contribution to the back-to-back bangers seamlessly embedded and adored. Neck Deep’s choices from ADAI are… intentional – highlight What Took You So Long? is left off, as is single Fall, in favour of Neck Deep’s more storytelling moments. Pushing Daisies, as a new track and not a single, isn’t your typical set closer, but it bookends the evening in a way that feels really fitting. We’ve gone from Sonderland to Pushing Daisies, as on the record, but we’ve taken a few backroads down Neck Deeps’ back catalogue, and it’s been a fabulous journey.

It always feels like a bit of a toss-up which songs Neck Deep are going to choose for their encore, because there are so many that get a suitably intense reaction. But with crowd-pleasers and emotional high-points December, A Part Of Me, and Can’t Kick Up The Roots out of the way, we know what’s coming. After prodding us for a bit of energy – we’ll have to give it a bit more if we want the show to finish, Ben Barlow teases – Neck Deep are back for Gold Steps and In Bloom. It’s a triumphant close to a milestone era for Neck Deep, in as close as they’ve got to a hometown show. The wait’s been worth it.

Neck Deep are headlining Slam Dunk festival in a few months if you can’t get enough.