Brand New at House of Blues | November 17

Brand New plays "You Won't Know" at the House of Blues. Click here to see a full gallery of photos from the show

I'd like to say that veteran emo-punkers Brand New's fans have matured with the band, if only because it would make a good opening line, but it wouldn't be true. The sold-out show at the House of Blues Tuesday night attracted the usual motley crew of spotty adolescents, mopey emo kids, and angular young moshers. Of course, there were also those of us who've been there since frontman Jesse Lacey was still penning lines like "This is the first song for your mix tape/And it's short just like your temper." On a side note, I counted an inordinate amount of beards in attendance -- crazy, something-might-be-nesting-in-there, mountain-man beards. The place looked more like a Molly Hatchet concert than an emo show.
But there's one thing both hirsute and hairless emo kids have in common, and that's a love of all things loud. Openers Glassjaw set the tone for the night with their particular brand of raw screamo. The Yonkers-bred boys hurled their bodies around the stage like weapons of mass destruction, pausing only long enough for lead singer Daryl Palumbo (he also fronts far-tamer Head Automatica) to address the sound guys. "Could we turn down the vocals?" he rasped. "My ears are fucking bleeding." But no one else was complaining, because aural hemorrhaging was obviously part of the bargain. When Glassjaw left the stage to impressively big applause for an opener (I think a good portion of the crowd actually came just for them) everyone was primed and ready for Brand New to keep the good times going.
The good times stalled momentarily, however, for reasons that were never made clear. The band didn't appear for a good half hour. The crowd waited it out expectantly, drawing a collective breath whenever a new tech guy strode onstage and all but exploded when, at last, the Long Island alt-rockers took the stage. Brand New got right down to business, opening with "Sink." They howled: "We're coming to get you" -- which, it was clear, they were. Luckily, we were all willing hostages.

Clad in a basic red hoodie and jeans (a welcome antidote to the typically overwrought hipster uniforms I've seen paraded across the HoB's stage), Lacey sized up the audience for a moment before remarking, "You all want to hear some old stuff, don't you?" We did. The band complied, playing a well-chosen mix of fan favorites mostly off their first two albums, particularly 2001's Your Favorite Weapon. During "You Won't Know," Lacey sent the churning crowd into apoplexy when he briefly played his guitar with his teeth. He then granted his bandmates a short reprieve while he went at it alone for an acoustic version of "Limousine," which also flaunted the group's strongest asset: Lacey's expressive, often hypnotically tortured vocals. The rest of the band rejoined him abruptly, their instruments pounding in to close the song as the fans roared.
The second half of the roughly 90-minute set drew almost exclusively from Brand New's last two albums: 2009's Daisy and 2006's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (their slickest record to date). This is where the band took the opportunity to show us just how far they've come, both as lyricists and musicians. Brand New's recent work is darker, tighter, and far more insightful than that of Your Favorite Weapon. And apparently, they felt compelled to prove it to us with visual aids. A screen lowered, and for the remainder of the show, grainy black-and-white footage of predatory spiders, women with blood-smeared mouths, cats sparring in a boxing ring (?), and other equally creepy images looped on a reel behind them. Watching it, I felt a bit like I had stumbled into that terrifying, psychedelic boat-ride scene from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

Honestly, Brand New could've done without the theatrics, because they simply don't need them. They're one of the few bands of their ilk who sound just as good (and just as consistent) live as they do on their albums. And Tuesday's show delivered nothing less than what Brand New fans have come to expect: cleverly crafted lyrics, raging instrumentals, and some good old-fashioned artistic angst that resonates long after the lights have dimmed.

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