If you took a second to look around the crowd before Brand New took the stage at the Usher Hall, you would see an interesting sight. The room is filled with all the usual suspects, but they’re all the usual suspects from a variety of different gigs. There are people wearing Nails t-shirts and others wearing lumberjack shirts. It’s a veritable mish-mash of musical ideas. All here to see one alternative rock band from Long Island, New York.
Of course, Brand New are not just any old band from Long Island. They’re more than that and the fans filling the Usher Hall obviously agree. As they stroll onto stage and launch into the entirety of Deja Entendu, something that wasn’t even advertised beforehand, there’s an almost visible sense of excitement. People love this band and they sing almost every word along with them.
Which stands in direct contrast to the stage presence of the band themselves. There’s no crowd interaction, apart from the occasional thank yo,u and in between songs the stage lights are dimmed down till the band are hardly visible. It’s quite a cold set up, even if the microphones are adorned with flowers, and it does lead to a feeling of disconnect between the performers and the audience.
On the other hand, it does kind of work. These are songs about love, angst and all those kinds of things and when it’s delivered by a socially awkward band, it makes it feel all the more real. Brand New aren’t acting and it lends a degree of truth to their lyrics that explains why these people love them. It also helps that they are just damn good. They don’t play a dud track all set and no amount of aloofness can take away from that.
I can’t pretend I’m a huge Brand New fan. I was one of the people at the side of the crowd nodding along, rather than singing at the top of my lungs. But there is something intoxicating about them. They inspire that teenage devotion from a lot of people who are no longer teenagers and that’s despite not having the warmth of most of those bands. They’ve done it be writing songs that connect with the audience and that seems to be more than enough.